Making a Math Learning Center

Quick Ideas for grades 1-2: Try these four easy ways to make your classroom math rich.

1. Develop the school-home connection.
Dedicate a bulletin board area to a math topic you are presently working on. Ask kids to bring in examples from home of places they find the concept. For instance, newspapers and magazines are full of advertising that feature fractions ("Half Off!") and money ("Only $9.99!"). Or students might bring in objects that are all the same shape, such as a circle or triangle. Keep parents in the loop so that looking for and talking about math becomes a family activity, too.

2. Have kids take pictures of the math around them.
It can be a fun activity for students to take digital pictures demonstrating how numbers are such a big part of our environment (think speed limit signs, numbers on a scale, prices in supermarkets, house numbers, telephone numbers, car speedometers). These photographs can be printed out, displayed, and used as a reference and as a way to emphasize how math really is useful and important in our daily lives.

3. Create a math word wall.
Math is full of important vocabulary. As you introduce math terms like pentagon, decimal, or symmetry, ask students to help create large word cards that feature the math word, a clear definition, and an illustration or example, which might include using the word in a sentence as well as related number examples. Work with students to create definitions that aren't full of jargon and that everyone can understand. Even simple words like equal, plus, and minus deserve their space on the math word wall. There are also words that are not exclusively math vocabulary, but are used often in math lessons such as determine or predict. Include these on your math word wall and compare the definitions to other possible uses of the words. Good examples on the word wall will help students learn and remember the vocabulary. You might even ask students to suggest words for the wall as they come across them in their math books.

4. Try an interactive bulletin board.
Several products on the market, such as Mountain Math (mtmath.com), can make this easier. Mountain Math is a bulletin board kit that serves as a review station of basic math skills across many different concepts. Each time you use it, the students will solve the assigned daily problems on their student worksheet. The worksheet stays the same throughout the year-it is the problems on the board that change. For example Question #1 will always be "Write this number in word form." The number that is on the bulletin board might start out as "32" and change during the year to "132" and then "1,032." The bulletin board prompts become increasingly more challenging as the year goes on and children increase their knowledge and abilities. There are questions about time, money, geometry, and pretty much every math concept you will teach. When the students have completed the worksheet, whether it has taken one or two weeks, flip the cards on the board, giving new problems to be worked during the next time period.

Bob Krech is the math curriculum specialist in New Jersey’s West Windsor-Plainsboro School District and a co-author of SMART Board Problems: Math Word Problems.

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