Let’s face it, no little kid wakes up in the morning and shouts, “I can’t wait to play in the math center!” That’s why it’s important that we, as teachers, create an organized and inviting space where our little learners can count, compare, sort and build a strong number sense foundation using 3-D objects they can touch and manipulate with their hands.
How to Set Up a Math Center in Preschool
When you stock your math center with inviting and intriguing materials, your kids will start building those critical math skills without even realizing that they’re doing anything other than having fun!
It’s important to label everything in your early childhood classroom. Labels help young children connect the written word with spoken language. Labels can also help children organize their world, learn classification skills, and facilitate a quick and easy clean-up.
Manipulatives and Tools
When it comes to stocking your center, it’s important to keep in mind how much wear and tear the materials you choose will have to withstand. When you have lots of little children touching and playing with the materials they’ll need to be very sturdy to survive daily use.
Here are some of the items that have withstood the tests of time in my own classroom:
- Balance Scale
- Pattern Blocks
- Teddy Bear Counters
- Transportation Counters
- Farm Animal Counters
- Wild Animal Counters
- Domestic Pet Counters
- Mathlink Cubes
- Number Bots
- Family Counters
- Bug Counters
- Ocean Animal Counters
- Dinosaur Counters
- Measuring Tape
- Math Center Sign
- Math Picture Books
- Shape Puzzles
Center Set-Up Tips
Each tub in the center is open on top and labeled with a picture of the materials along with the words. It’s important to place labels on each end of your tubs, as well as a matching picture on the shelf.
Using open tubs and picture labels will facilitate a quick and easy clean-up. The words on the labels will help create a print-rich environment in your classroom and pique the interest and curiosity of your little learners.
The Math Center Sign provides a picture icon to help your students identify and locate your math center. These signs are also intended to help the adults in the classroom learn the benefits of hands-on learning in centers with “we are” statements.
What to Put Out and When
Teachers always ask how many of these materials they should put out on the first day of school. In order to have a successful and functional center, each tub or item that is placed on the shelf is introduced to the children during large or small group time. When the children have learned how to use materials, and demonstrated that they can use them successfully, then and only then, will they be placed on the shelf in the center for free exploration.
You’ll also want to include a tub or basket of math picture books in your center. Choose books with bright, bold pictures that your students are familiar with or books that don’t require that you read them aloud for your students to understand. Books about numbers, counting, sorting, patterning or similar topics are perfect.
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The Teaching Tribe
Having a well-stocked math center is awesome! But let’s face it, a math center can’t make you a better teacher. The best place to discuss teaching best practices and get the support you need is in the Teaching Tribe. We have many printable lessons and on-demand video trainings to help you become the best teacher you can be! If you want to get on the waiting list for the Teaching Tribe, do it soon so you don’t miss the next open enrollment period!