Search This Blog

Sunday, August 1, 2021



When creating math centers, help yourself by teaching smarter, not harder.  To this end, one of my favorite math centers is a bulletin board display, too!  Killing 2 birds with 1 stone is definitely smart.

HOW MANY WAYS? is an example of a bulletin board math center that exercises multiple skills, differentiates instruction, and easily challenges fast finishers, enrichment students, and G/T kiddos all at once.

This BACK TO SCHOOL version is FREE!! It provides all the materials you need to customize the center to your needs. For example, you may choose to post pencils with counting dots for very young learners, or eschew the counting version for pencil icons with just numbers.

Additionally, you can select the question that best suits the abilities of your learners:

  • How many ways can you count to --- ?
  • How many ways can you get to --- ?
The 2nd question requires students to use basic operations to reach the target number.  This, too, provides differentiation as you select the operation(s) under study and/or within your children's skill set.  

The target number can be changed daily, weekly, or at whatever interval seems most doable to you.  The operation symbols can also be exchanged/added/subtracted as you wish.

This math center can be used during your math block or in a number of other ways.  For example, establish it as an bell ringer activity, training your students to engage in it upon arrival each day. It can also be used for enrichment students, G/T, and/or fast finishers. As its name implies, the challenge is to find multiple ways of reaching the target number. This exercises your learners' Higher Order Thinking Skills, fluency, and flexibility.

The procedure for How Many Ways? can challenge each individual to list all the ways s/he discovers. Or, the center group of students can work collaboratively to make a list.  You can even create competition between center groups to determine which group can find the most ways to answer the question.

Individuals can list their solutions in their math journals.

Another option is to have your pupils write each equation on a sticky note, posting it on the wall by the bulletin board.  This choice also calls on the children to check for duplicates and inaccuracies.

If you are intrigued by How Many Ways?, you can get all nine versions in the bundle in my TPT store.

WANTED NUMBERS is another bulletin board math center that I love. 

This, center, too, can be used in various ways:

  • bell ringer
  • math center rotations
  • math journals
  • enrichment, G/T, early finishers
  • team competition

The above picture shows the bulletin board display. The number on the wanted poster can be changed by the teacher, as can the form of the wanted poster. Three versions of the poster are included, allowing growth over time and instant differentiation.

Provide copies of the poster for your students. They add the wanted number that is displayed, then complete the form. Exemplars can be printed for their use or simply require the children to illustrate their ideas.

Expectations for the posters will naturally evolve as the class advances through the curricula. Thus, primary classes may start with single digit numbers, adding more digits as their understanding grows.
Teachers may also choose to allow students to select their own number for the posters, giving them choices with parameters such as:
  • odd/even numbers
  • numbers between 40 & 70
  • 3 digit numbers
  • fractions
  • factors of 5
  • etc.
All of the choices available for Wanted Numbers should make this math center bulletin board an enduring activity.  One bulletin board done for the entire year!

Always strive to work smarter!

Thursday, July 29, 2021


When you first embark on your math centers journey, it is important to avoid overwhelming yourself.  Starting slowly is far more preferable than being frustrated.  

Ideally, you are conducting small group instruction during center time. Thus, you likely have 6 to 8 students with you. Math centers typically accomodate up to 6 children. In a class of 24, you will need centers for about 18 children.  That translates into a minimum of 3 centers during your math block.  And THAT may sound like a lot of balls to juggle.
There are a number of ways to approach this.
1.  Conduct the same activity in each center.  There is no rule against this!  Simply provide enough materials for 3 or more groups of students to use.
2.  Establish one center with the activity under study. The other centers can be explorations of your math manipulatives. That is, one center could be free exploration of tangrams. Another could be building with Unifix cubes, or attribute blocks, or base ten blocks, ... You get the idea.
3.  Introduce 1 new center activity each day.  Run it parallel to the existing center(s). By the end of the week, you will have 5 working centers.  Using open-ended center work will allow you to use the same activity for an extended time.

Following are examples of some open-ended centers that can enjoy longevity:

I offer a bundle of these Spin-Tally-Graph centers here.  One of my favorite labor saving tips is to incorporate recurring activities throughout the school year.  Once your students are trained to use a particular activity, reintroducing it periodically, in a fresh version, allows young children to hone their skills.  It also provides the opportunity for scaffolding their efforts.

Again, I have created several versions of this activity.  The bundle will save you money and is available here.

In addition to using tangrams for free exploration, as described above, you can add rigor to this activity.  Provide puzzles for learners to complete using the tangram pieces. This will challenge their problem solving and critical thinking skills, as well as giving additional experience with geometric shapes.  Interested in a bundle of tangram puzzles?  You'll find mine here.  All of my tangram products include 2 versions of each puzzle; one with outlines for the shapes and 1 version without the outlines.  This allows you to differentiate for children who need more or less support.

Check back for more center suggestions.

Friday, July 16, 2021


Math centers are essential in the primary grades.  They give children the chance to practice skills and strategies previously taught; simultaneously giving teachers insight into who or what needs further teaching.  Moreover, once students are trained to work independently in centers, the teacher is available for small group instruction and/or individual intervention and evaluation.

Math centers expectations should be explained and demonstrated prior to starting your learners in the activities.  Teachers should model and monitor center behavior for a minimum of one week before launching independent center work.

Conduct a mini lesson daily to remind students about how to use the materials, cooperate, and problem solve.  You may wish to have 2 students demonstrate the activity briefly.  Even then, some students may need more support.  Train your learners to "ask 3 before me."

I'm a strong advocate for open-ended center activities. They permit students to learn in their zone of proximal development (ZPD).  Children should begin with tasks that can be completed independently.  Then challenge them to work with a skilled partner to achieve more. Thus, math centers should included individual endeavors, as well as partner or small group pursuits.

The possibilities for math center activities is seemingly endless.  Obviously, the centers should reflect and extend the topic(s) currently under study. 

Early in the academic year, you are likely to focus on number senseFollowing are some centers I've created for my students to practice numeracy.  You may find them interesting.

I hope you'll come back soon for more math center information and tips.

 It's about time, teachers, for a 

Perfect for a math center in your primary classroom, this activity provides task cards for directing the patterns to be made. Or, you can make it open-ended, allowing students to make the patterns they choose.  

This offer is only good for today, 7/16/21.  So don't delay!!

You may also like:

Sunday, April 11, 2021


 It's about time, teachers, to teach smarter not harder.

When I was in Reading Recovery™ training, one concept that was ingrained in me was to teach with a sense of urgency.  That has carried over into all of my teaching and has prompted me to try to maximize both my teaching activities and the learning of my students.  In other words, I try to teach smarter, not harder.

To that end, I created One Dollar Words Challenges. Using these with my 3rd - 5th grade enrichment students proved to be smart teaching that incorporated computation with vocabulary development, grammar with research, and editing with Higher Order Thinking Skills.

The challenge is to find words that have a value of exactly $1 when the letters are added together using these values:

Just blindly striking out to discover a $1 Word couldn't be more frustrating to students.  So, I created clues to lead them.

Give each student a clue, a table of values, and a calculator.  Then send them off to find their words.  A thesaurus is an enormous aid to this pursuit and can be used in print or digital form.  [Be aware that digital thesauri can, on occasion, produce objectionable words for children.] 

Before long, students will discover the value of base words, prefixes, suffixes, plurals, participles, ... The skills honed include:
  • addition computation
  • vocabulary development
  • parts of speech
  • base words
  • prefixes & suffixes
  • participles
  • singular & plural
  • compound words
  • spelling & proof-reading
  • dictionary & thesaurus
  • calculator
  • internet research
  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • cooperative learning

Teaching just can't get much smarter!

This file is FREE so you can try them before you buy them.

You can find 6 more units here. Additionally, they have been combined into several bundles which will save you money!

Come back soon for more ideas about WORKING SMARTER NOT HARDER.

Friday, April 9, 2021

It's about time, teachers, to TEACH SMARTER NOT HARDER!

If you have not discovered SCRATTLE, you are certainly teaching harder, not smarter!  This FREE product line is differentiated, making it appropriate for 1st - 6th grades, ideal for centers (math, literacy, and/or critical thinking), open ended for greater flexibility and fluency, and super engaging for learners. SCRATTLE combines word work with computation, individual effort with competition.  As in Scrabble™, students will use a set of letters to create words.  After recording their terms, they calculate each word's worth using letters values.  They then engage a friend in a battle wherein the 2 compare their scores using >,<, and =. The player with the most >s wins the battle!


One of my favorite things about SCRATTLE is that children rapidly and readily learn that making short, easy words is a bad idea.  In order to conquer their opponent, they must seek to create longer, more complex words.  Moreover, this activity can be done over and over, allowing children to hone their skills (making words, computation, spelling, strategic thinking) while having fun.

There are 8 SCRATTLE files, each associated with a season or holiday.  ALL ARE FREE!  Each product provides 3 recording sheet options.  This accomodates the grade range and allows for really easy differentiation within a classroom.

Recently, at the request of some teachers, I have added an additional file of recording sheets.  They offer the opportunity for 3 warriors to battle each other.  This file is also FREE!

SCRATTLE is a terrific means for teaching smarter not harder!!! But you don't have to take my word for it.  Check out these comments from teachers who have used these units.

Thursday, April 8, 2021


It's about time, teachers, for more efficient teaching.

Do you love combining disciplines for more efficient teaching?  I sure do.  To that end, I have made a new product line that blends vocabulary, spelling, and fractions with critical thinking.  I call them VOCABULARY FRACTIONS.  Each product includes 20 task cards that ask students to combine fractional parts of words to create thematic terminology. 

Here's an example from the Sports Edition:

Altogether, there are 15 sets of VOCABULARY FRACTIONS and 3 bundles.  The 1st bundle includes 5 products.

The second bundle combines VOCABULARY FRACTIONS for 6 holidays.

The 3rd bundle is part of my FOREST FRIENDS CURRICULA.  This bundle offers 3 products and 1 free unit.

If you would like to try them before you buy them, download this FREE set:

To quote one student, "These made my brain hurt, but I love them!"  I think your learners will feel the same way.

Come back soon for more ideas about WORKING SMARTER NOT HARDER.