Teachers around the nation are always changing the way they deliver instruction according to the latest research, especially math teachers. As a major area of education where our students tend to struggle, math instruction is heavily researched. In the last ten years, math instruction has changed drastically, and, according to which state you are licensed in, you might be overhauling your entire classroom curriculum.
Math centers, or math rotations, are becoming more and more popular with math teachers in various grade levels. Whether you teach primary, intermediate, or secondary mathematics, using math rotations in your classroom can greatly benefit both you and your students. But starting from scratch on implementing math rotations might seem intimidating and overwhelming, so here are five tips to help you get started.
Because math rotations are becoming more and more popular, there are thousands of resources on the internet instructing “the best way to implement math workshops in your classroom.” But because every classroom is different and every teacher is different, there are thousands of variations of math workshops. While they all tend to have the same structure, dividing students into groups and rotating through different activities, independent and group practice, and time in front of the teacher, math workshops can be varied numerous ways. You might find that for some concepts, your students need math workshops that concentrate on guided practice with a partner or with the teacher. Other chapters might warrant more time for independent practice. As you implement math workshops more and more often into your classroom, you will discover the types of centers you and your students need in order to be successful.
If there’s one thing to keep in mind when you’re creating your math workshop, it’s that the first way won’t be the last way. You will quickly discover that tweaking things here and there make for smoother transitions, shorter prep time, and better differentiation for your students. Give yourself permission to veto ideas you may have in the beginning if they aren’t working for you and your students. If implementing math rotations in your classroom teaches you anything, it’s that delivering instruction in a variety of ways gives your students the best shot at being successful.
Any teacher you talk to about math workshops will tell you that on the front-end, there’s quite a bit of preparation involved. When you’re just beginning this process, give yourself more than enough time to get yourself organized and prepare all of your materials ahead of time. Walking into a Wednesday without your game cards cut out and your worksheet copies made won’t make for a successful class period. Delivering instruction through rotations in math means you have to have ample resources to keep your students engaged throughout their session.
From partner activities to independent practice, creating student groups and partnerships is of the utmost importance. Give yourself time to observe your students – who works well with whom? Who is struggling with today’s concept? How can I aid this student in becoming more successful with this standard?
The easiest way to do this is a quick “ticket out the door” at the end of a class period. Give yourself time to review these. Make a list of students who need extra support and pair them with students who seem to be excelling during the next class period. Taking some time out of your afternoon to mix up your student groups can be the difference between your students understanding the concept of the week…and not.
As a math teacher who is just beginning to implement math rotations in the classroom, reach out to your students for feedback. What do they like and dislike about having math workshop days? Are they too fast-paced? Too slowly paced? How can we improve our math workshop days together? Reaching out to your students in this way will give them permission to trust you with how they see themselves struggling. Building trust with your students is one of the key elements to a classroom that successfully implements math rotations.
As you begin your journey into creating math workshops in your classroom, try not to feel overwhelmed. When you begin researching ideas on the internet and among your coworkers, see the ample opportunities and resources as support. You can take what you want and leave what you don’t, giving you and your students everything they need to be the greatest mathematicians of the next generation.