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Math Work Stations Experiment Part 2

Finally, onto Math Work Stations in a first grade classroom.  Now remember we explored using stations during the last few weeks of school, so they are lacking in beginning of the year meticulous cutesy-ness!  We set the stations up similar to the way we set them up in 3rd grade.  We had several colored tubs arranged in a shelf like organizer.  (I rescued this out of an old junk room which is the catch-all for teachers’ unwanted items.)  This organizer had eight tubs, and that helped us get started.  The teacher also found some tubs she had that she put with these extra tubs.  We placed this in an easy traffic flow area near the wall.  All the materials needed for each station are stored in each station’s tub.


I must say that the above tub organizer was not the best for stations even though it is what we used–it is what we had to work with at the time.  There was a problem with fitting folders or books into the tubs without them bending when placed on the second or third shelf, as you can see in the picture.  Next year, the teacher is going to use tubs on a bookshelf instead like the 3rd grade teacher.

Because first grade uses literacy centers, the teacher just used the same pocket chart to organize students’ names for math  work stations (remember we are making this simple with only a few weeks left in the year).  Unlike literacy centers which name the station, she chose to just number the stations for the students on the wall and on the tub.  This is what Debbie Diller suggests.

Brightly colored numbers are also placed around the room to guide students into going to the correct place in the room for their math station.  You can see the bright yellow number below.


 Now originally when we put the stations together, I told the teacher I would write the “I Can” statements on the bottom of the tubs.  I did this with illustrations.  Now, Debbie Diller’s book has the “I Can” statements written on the lids of tubs, and a math coach I work with also has the directions labeled on the tub lids.


However, after the first grade teacher saw what the third grade teacher had done by putting the “I Can” statements on the inside of the folder, she, too, opted for putting the “I Can” statements and directions in folders.  She numbered the folders only.  This way the inside of the folder can be switched out without having to buy new folders.



So here are some of the stations and games that we put into place for the 1st graders.  Again,with first grade the target of the stations was fluency with number facts and with counting.

Station 1 was simple and easy–Reflex Math Fact Practice–addition, of course, for 1st grade.

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Station 2

I already showed you the “I Can” statements for Station 2 above in the blue bucket with Ten Sly Piranhas.  Kids could read the book, they could act out the book on the mat with the cubes, or they could write their own Piranhas word problems.  The alligator on the work mat is just something I found on Google images and cut out.


Station 3

This station revolves around counting and number patterns.


One choice the students have is to read 100 Days of Cool by Stuart Murphy.  This book is about counting to 100.  The second choice they have is to use one of four different colored sets of number cards and fill the pocket chart in.  The colored numbers are differentiated to suit both high and low learners.  For example, the white cards span the numbers from 21-120, the green cards span the numbers from 121-220, the orange cards span the numbers from 221-320, and finally the turquoise cards are the most challenging and span the numbers from 921-1,020.  Students select the cards that will best suit their needs.



Above are some cards that the students were filling into the pocket chart.  I chose this picture because the students soon self corrected and noticed that 309 and 318 cannot be in the same column.  Looking at this picture, I am just now realizing that the kids will have to move the numbers down because the rest of the numbers are less than 300.  The kids can grapple with this and figure it out.  However, I’m thinking that writing what number to start with on the baggie would be a better idea.

The above number cards came from a product I made when I realized students cannot count past 100 with a hundreds chart.  The last time I checked the number cards that are sold commercially only go to 120 now.    I’m posting a link to the number cards I made below in case you would like to save yourself the time from making them to fit your chart just right.  The cards come in red on white, white on red, and black on white so that you can make the cards any color you want (like above).

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Finally, the last choice for Station 3 is for students to put together number puzzles which are basically just 100’s charts that have been cut apart.   First, you could try out these whole class (shown below) which are on TPT before having students do them independently in the math station.  For a station, I recommend that the chart be cut apart already because students won’t have time to use scissors in a math station.


Station 4

Station 4 reinforces adding and subtracting one from a number with the story Ten Flashing Fireflies.  The students could read the book, act it out with yellow cubes on the jar work mat, or write their own story problems about Ten Flashing Fireflies in their work station journals.



I got the jar clip art from…you guessed it…Google images.  I think there is an actual jar picture in one of the Math Solutions books, but it was just quicker to find a jar on Google images.  This book is one of my favorites in which the fireflies are being gathered one by one in the jar from the night sky.  The illustrations are compelling.

Station 5

In stations 5 through 12 we included the same activities with the intention to change them out later if the students became bored with the activities.  These stations dealt with adding and subtracting sums of 10 and sums of 20–namely, where we needed the most work, fluency.


The first choice students could work on was “Sums of 10”.  Their second choice was Differences and Dice.  Both of these games can be found in Debbie Diller’s Math Work Stations book in the section about Addition and Subtraction stations.  Also, students had the choice to play Close to 20 which helps them become fluent with larger sums.  The Close to 20 game and score sheet came from a TERC math book.  However, you can easily find Close to 20 instructions and score sheets on the internet in multiple places.  In Close to 20, students  pull out five number cards and try to build a sum as close to 20 as they can.  Close to 20 can be easily differentiated to Close to 100 or Close to 1000 for advanced learners.  The wonderful thing about this station is that every game uses number cards 0-9.  There are also other games that could be incorporated in this same station such as Tens Go Fish, which uses number cards as well.  Later on after math stations were established, the teacher did incorporate the Tens Go Fish Game (another TERC math goody) into this center.  If you plan on doing math centers at any level, number cards are a great thing to have on hand.

MathStations1stgrade-01722The first grade teacher also decided to go with spiral bound notebooks for the students to carry around if they had any writing to do at a math station.  Above shows a student’s recordings of the Close to 20 game.

After experimenting with Debbie Diller’s Math Work Stations at the end of the year, both the 1st and 3rd grade teacher opted for journals that students could carry with them as opposed to community journals.  Also, both teachers next year will include the “I Can” statements and game instructions inside of  paper folders.  My goal in general for our Math Work Stations is that we improve differentiation in each center for low, average, and above average learners.

I hope you can use some of these content ideas for stations in your classroom next year!

You may also like to read this post about our 3rd grade math station experiment:


or this addition/subtraction freebie for math stations…

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