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Math Work Stations Experiment Part 1

Last time, I told you all about my experiment with Debbie Diller’s Math Work Stations.  Well, it is about 5 weeks into the experiment, and I am loving the idea.  Using math stations does however take excellent classroom management skills, but more about that later.  The pictures below show a 3rd grade teacher’s classroom.  She is an excellent classroom manager and very organized.  Once I helped get her station activities together and discussed the details of running the stations, she made the math stations her own.   Because we only had a few weeks until the end of the school year, and I was concerned about the students’ fluency with multiplication, we focused most of the math stations around multiplication.  Some of the stations are built around multi-digit addition and subtraction to keep this skill fresh in their minds also.

The station tubs are located on a back shelf in the classroom.


There are numbered labels on each tub and little stickers on the shelf below so that students can find the correct place to put the tub when it is returned to the shelf.


The numbers coordinate to a chart which is numbered with the students’ names on it.  The teacher put the name on the chart of one of the activities in the tub in addition to the number to make it easier for herself to manage.


I blocked out the students’ names on the cards for their privacy, but on each pink card and on each yellow card there are two names.  The pink cards are her first class and the yellow cards are her second class.  Our school departmentalized math this year.  Students work in pairs in each class.  We initially started with only one station and after a few weeks worked up to more than one.  In Debbie Diller’s book, she says  to start with one for about 20 minutes and do no more than 2 a day totaling about 40 minutes (50 with rotations and cleanup etc.)  We placed matching numbers in the room so that students would know exactly where to go when their name was on a particular math station.  We also placed these numbers in sequential circular order around the room so that students could easily rotate without running into one another.

In most stations we gave students three choices to pick from which is what Debbie says to do in her book.  That way students feel empowered with the fact that they get to make choices.  Each of the choices at a station relate to each other.  If students don’t want to do one of the games/activities at a station, they have other choices to pick from.  Also, if they aren’t as confident with one activity, they can pick a different activity.


In station 1 we placed several addition/ subtraction games which use some of the same materials.  The games we included were Close to 100, Close to 0 (basically the same game but subtracting),


and addition/subtraction tic tac toe.  Close to 100 and Close to 0 are both games that can be found in the TERC math series.  This is out of print, but many buildings have copies of these.  Both games use number cards.  TMathStationsforBlog-01678

The addition/subtraction tic-tac-toe is teacher made.  One student answers the problem.  the other student in the pair checks the problem.  If the problem is correct, then the first student may place a marker on his problem space.  Just like in real tic-tac-toe, the first player to have 3 in a row wins.  The three colors of boards are three different levels of problem boards.MathStationsforBlog-01676


I found that both teachers in first and 3rd liked to organize their games in pocket folders.

In station 2 we built the activities around Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream.  This is a fun book with lots of multiplication applications on each page.


In this station students can read the book, work out word problems from the word problem sheet, or create their own word problem stories.


The cake work mat and word problem sheets come from my Discovering the Commutative Property of Multiplication Unit.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 4.43.15 PM

Station 3 is a Multiplication Bump game that she got from TPT.  Because there are several different game boards, we didn’t provide many options at this station.  I have really enforced calling them “Math Work Stations” like Debbie Diller suggests so students remember they are working–NOT playing.  I also really like how the teacher took this to heart.  Instead of writing I can “play” this or that game, she wrote I can “work” on this game on the I CAN statement sheets.


Station 4, 5, and 6 are duplicates of other stations.  Station 7 is a computer station where students are practicing math facts on Reflex Math.  Station 8 is also a duplicate.  When getting started Debbie Diller says it is fine to duplicate stations so that you aren’t overwhelmed.  Because the length of time between when students will be at the same station again is several days, students are okay with a repeated station.

Below is station 9.  This station revolves around multiplication as arrays.  The 100 Hungry Ants book is about ants in arrays and one of students’ choices is to read the book.  Another choice is for students to write their own story problem about arrays with ants on a paper plate…how darling…right?  I even suggested that the teacher hang the plates outside her door on a checkered table cloth. (plastic ones are available at the Dollar Tree as I type)  Students can also play Array Card Game War, which basically works like regular War but with multiplication facts to go with the Array Cards.  This is another TERC math goody in the Things that Come in Groups book.

MathStationsforBlog-01688I included this speech bubble card which Debbie Diller suggests to help students use math language while they are playing games.  We didn’t make them for all of the stations, so I cannot speak to their effectiveness.


Station 10 includes two different publisher made games for multiplication.  One is Four in a Row and the other is Hit the Road.  These are both games the teacher just had in a file.  I am pretty confident you could easily find a game like Four in a Row on the internet because I have come across several games like this before.


At Station 11, students could read the book Each Orange Had 8 Slices.  They could solve the problems in the book, or they could write their own problems like the ones in the book.


The above notebook shows an example of some student work that took place while the students were traveling in their math stations.  This teacher opted to have each student carry his/her own journal around to each station as opposed to having a community journal at the station.  This is a teacher’s personal choice.  Students head the page with their math game/activity title, date and math station number.



The classroom teacher also incorporated a missing pieces bucket like Debbie Diller suggests.

And we must mention last but not least BORING STREET.  This was a first grade teacher’s idea.  This is where you go when you are not behaving at Math Work Stations.  This is a collection of boring math work that you can do while everyone else is playing  fun math games.  The work must be turned in at the end of math station time.  MathStationsforBlog-01671

Next year, we will know just what to expect for Math Work Stations and we can make them even better since we did this end of the year experiment.  Up in the next few days…our Math Work Station experiment in 1st grade!

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