Grade: Elementary
Subject: Mathematics

#2872. Math Center and Number activities

Mathematics, level: Elementary
Posted Fri May 23 11:43:00 PDT 2003 by Sheila ().

Math Centers Galore-copied from others who posted on Primary Teachers Net Chatboard

This is such a great collection of ideas that I have gotten
from the Teachers Net Chatboards. I think it's worth
sharing with everyone again. Hope it helps some of you!

*"money center" - they roll a die to determine how many
coins to combine and count the value of (if we're working on
dimes and nickels, they roll once to see how many dimes and
again to see how many nickels). I make a worksheet for them
with headings (dimes, nickels, pennies, how much?) in
columns. They write the number they roll with the dice for
each coin and then count up the total using play coins.
It's really easy to check and they love doing it.
*They also like the domino fact family center. We turn over
the domino combinations we want them to work on, they draw a
domino from the middle of the table and then write the
number family facts - easy to check.
*Playing card games to practice math facts to 10 - there are
so many of these and you can make up your own - are also a
*Pattern blocks - trace and divide into fractions
*Toss the Dice Addition - toss the dice and add (write the
equation) - get the blank dice and put numbers through 9
*Fraction Dominoes - found this at Walmart and it's great
(start matching the colors and then they advance on their
own from there and begin to understand fractions)
*Partner Unifix patterns - take turns making a pattern of 10
pieces and the partner has to keep it going for 10 more
*Games---types of bingo (add, sub, mult, div, time) pattern
blocks to build with, geo-safari (kids love it), easiest and
best thing I have done---make a game board (I teach themes
so I have one for every theme) I cut out clipart and glued
them onto a poster board to make a gameboard. I wrote move
back 2 spaces, jump ahead 1 and made a place where they
could slide across. Place a deck of cards and playing
pieces and a dice in a baggie. They turn over top two cards
and +,-,X if they get it correct they roll and move that #
of spaces. They love it and will play for hours.
Math: Dice games, addition and subtraction games, money
bags(play money in bags and count and write
down the number of the bag and how much is
inside.)measurement bags (like Money Bags but with Measuring
instead) tangram pieces, holey cards, flash cards, Smath
(Scrabble but with numbers)

Math Center: -- In this center one would find manipulatives
and games that reinforce your grade level skills. Some
materials that would be kept at a math center are: plastic
counters, pattern blocks, magnetic shapes and numbers, Base
Ten Blocks, tangrams, graph paper, magnetic board, dice,
calculators, play money, timer, geoboards, attribute blocks,
scales, fraction models, measuring instruments, Math Geo
Safari, playing cards, math related books, linking cubes,
anything with numbers, old textbooks. The math center can
also be set up for daily graphing and it might have an
estimation station. A very good place would be near the
calendar board.

*laminated cards with boxes for the answer (clip these to
dry-erase board)
*Timed addition and subtraction tests (digital timer...they
have 1-3 minutes depending on the test. They love to beat
their previous time!
*addition and subtraction dot-to-dot pictures
*Invisible answer computation sheets (from a Homework Helper
book...not sure of the publisher, it's at school) I have
these laminated and they use a vis-a-vis to mark their
answer. Then they take a red cellophane "wand" and scan
over their paper...the answers are hidden in boxes beside
each equation and they "magical appear" when they look
through the wand.
*Equation dice toss...roll 2 dice and figure the sum...write
the equation above the sum on a number grid. First player
to fill a column is the winner.
*Store (money) They are given a set amount of money and some
catalogs ...they have to keep a tally as they
"shop" store ads, book club order forms, menus,
Christmas toy catalogs are all good for "Store"
*Valuable words (money) I put up a chart with the alphabet
listed. Beside each letter I put coin stickers (pennies,
nickels, dimes) They take their list of spelling words for
the week and find the value of each word. Sometimes I put a
dictionary in the center and challenge them to find the most
expensive word...they go through MANY trying to find a high
value word!
*Taped quizzes...I record myself giving a short quiz. They
listen, work the problem, then check. It's fun if you can
get other teachers and administrators to tape a couple for
you too...the kids love hearing people they know!
*Sum's a set, comes in a little briefcase. We got
it at the Learning Toys store. There are cards with holes
punched in them. The children use the provided number tiles
to find the answer. If the answer is incorrect, the tile
won't fit.
*File folder math activities
*Time stories...I tape a story I make up..."I got up at 7
o'clock and read for an hour. What time was it then..." I
provide the children with copies of blank clocks (from a
clock stamp...but they could make their own if you are
limited on copies)They have to draw the hands on the clocks
to show the different times I'm talking about!
*Domino equations (often interchanged with "math
games")Choose a domino, write the equations using the number
of dots on each side, write the sum.
*Pattern Blocks...creating pattern block walls, creating
symmetrical designs with a partner, creating a design in
with blocks and a hinged mirror and then copying the larger
reflected design, using templates and finding which blocks
have to be used to fill the shape exactly, fraction practice
(a trapezoid is 1/2 of a hexagon...)
*Unifix cubes...pattern trains, probability, concrete bar
graphs, greater than/less than games, even/odd games
*Multilink cubes...(many of the same activities as Unifix
cubes) 3-D shapes (geometry)
*Geoboards...numeral writing, patterning (with Unifix cubes
on top of the pegs), patterning cards (with rubber bands,
geometric shapes, area, perimeter, "Dots" (you know, that
game you play where you try to create boxes by connecting
the can do the same with geoboards and rubber
bands, they place a color tile in the box when they make
it...lots of critical thinking, observation, and strategy
with that one!)
*Color Tiles...patterning, probability, area, perimeter,
symmetry, acting out equations
*Wooden Cubes...patterning, probability, 3-D shapes and
designs, width/length/height ("build a shape that is 4
blocks wide, 6 blocks long, and 2 blocks high...what shape
is it? rectangular prism)
*Junk Boxes...a lot like Work jobs, I use them to "act out"
an equation, patterning, classification, attributes(I have
keys, pom-poms, golf tees, bottle caps, milk jug rings,
square bread clasps, marker lids, seashells, beans, pebbles,
dog biscuits, buttons, marbles, seed packets, pasta,
Christmas lightbulbs, squares of wallpaper, and postage
stamps, to name a few)
*Tangrams and Pentominoes...much like pattern
blocks...figuring out designs from templates and creating
their own.
*GAMES-Kids love this center, of course, because they just
think they are playing! I have made several game boards from
poster board and file folders. The poster board ones either
have paint splotches in a path with little pictures or die
cuts to decorate. Many are made from daily calendar
pictures (You know, those pad desk calendars...I prefer
Disney Days) I cut out the pictures and glue them in a path
around the board. I add things like "Jump ahead 2 spaces,
go back to start, roll again, lose a turn" and laminated
them. Then, I went to Toys R Us and bought those little
character figurines (Pooh, Simba, Snow White, etc.) that
they use for playing pieces and some dice. Often times I
just put out the board, playing pieces, die, and a stack of
addition/subtraction cards. One child takes a card from the
stack, works the problem (mentally) and says the answer. If
the other player agrees it is correct, the child gets to
roll and move that many spaces. If they get the problem
incorrect they don't get to roll. This is a popular game
and all I have to do is change out the board and the cards.
Sometimes I use money cards where they have to say the value
of the coin combination. Sometimes I use clock cards where
they have to say the time. If you wanted, you could make
these self-checking by writing the answers on the front.
Instead of the first child picking the card the buddy picks
the card and reads the problem FOR the other child. The
child answers and the buddy can look at the card to see if
they are right. (In the years I've been using this center,
though, the kids have done fine with just plain cards...if
there is a disagreement, they find another child close by to
*Addition War...played with 2 decks of cards (Ace through 10
only) Played like regular War except they put 2 cards out at
a time and add them together, largest sum gets all 4 cards.
MATH CENTER activities (cont.) from Dawn on teachernet
File folder boards are made by using stickers to make the
path or to decorate with and then laminated. Milk jug caps
with stickers on them make great, inexpensive playing
pieces. Some of the game boards are shower curtains that
they spread out on the floor. (I have drawn the path and
decorations with markers) They use Beanie Babies for the
playing pieces. I also like to use vinyl table cloths. My
game area is close to my whole group area so there is room
to spread out big game boards. The games are basically the
same but changing the board makes it exciting!
*Tic-Tac-Toe...They draw this on the dry-erase board. If
they answer the problem correctly they get to put their
mark. I also die-cut 2 sets of big X's and O's, laminated
them and on the back of one set I put a piece of magnetic
tape. I use a big cookie sheet with colored masking tape on
it to make a tic-tac-toe board or they can draw one on the
chalkboard that is magnetic and play the same way. The
other set they use on the floor using yardsticks to make the
tic-tac-toe grid. Variety is the key!
*Addition, Subtraction, Time, or Money Concentration: played
like regular concentration except they have to match the
problem to the answer. (This is a nice QUIET game!)
Dominoes...each player chooses 6 dominoes, they take turns
to try to match the ends. If there is no match they have to
choose another domino from the "pool" until they find one
that will play. The first one to match all his/her dominoes
is the winner.
Bang!...I made Pringles cans to look like a stick of
dynamite. Inside are equation cards and 8 cards that say
BANG! Their little hands fit perfectly inside these. They
take turns reaching in and pulling out a card. If it is an
equation card they read the problem and say the answer. If
they are correct they get to keep the card, if they are
incorrect it goes back in the can. If they pull out a BANG!
card, they have to put ALL their cards back in! BUT LEAVE
THE BANG! CARD OUT! (otherwise the game would never end!)
They LOVE this game! (It also works well in a reading
center, the cards have sight words or spelling words on them
that they have to read.)
*Go Fish...I got this game last year and the kids love it!
It's not the regular Go Fish. This is a Fisher Price game
($5 at Walmart) It has 4 little boats, fish cards and a
suction cup fishing pole. The object of the game as it is,
is to put all the fish cards face down and take turns
fishing with the rod. If the bottom of the fish they catch
matches the color of their boat they get to keep it in their
boat. If it doesn't match, they have to "throw it back".
There are 4 fish with pictures on them (rusty can, old boot,
anchor, and a tire) If they get one of those, they have to
put ALL their fish back! We just added a twist to it. They
have to answer a math problem correctly FIRST to be able to
fish in the first place! The person that gets 4 fish in
their boat first, wins! (I also use this in my reading games
*Number, Addition, Subtraction, Telling Time Bingo...the
kids can play this by themselves (in pairs or triplets).
The cards are placed face-down in the middle. The children
take turns choosing a card and calling it out for everyone.
They look on their card as well so they are still playing
every time.
***Measurement and estimation/graphing center activities
Measurement: A LOT can be covered here since measurement is
not only length/width/height (non-standard as well as inches
and centimeters)'s also area/perimeter, time/duration,
weight, and quantity. I start out with quite a few
non-standard measurement activities(w/all measuring
*Students compare different objects (spiral, crayon box,
eraser, pencil, notebook, folder, etc.) and have to put them
in order by size, use a ruler, and label the length or width
of each. (This is a great place to practice math
*Body measurements...measure your smile, your hug, your
hand, arm, leg, big toe and find things in the room that are
shorter, longer, same.
*We do non-standard measurement all year (using a shark
tooth makes it fun and interesting!) the difference is,
later on in the year, we turn our non-standard into
standard..."this book is 4 shark teeth long. A shark tooth
is 3 inches so if I measure 4 of them, it's 12 inches."
*Time...get a digital timer, clock with a second hand, and a
stopwatch for this center.
***Measurement and estimation/graphing center activities
*To begin with, we do simple duration tests...fill a plastic
tub with water, provide a pile of baby food jar lids...some
solid, some with 1,2,3,or 4 holes punched in the top (with
an icepick) Students pick a lid and predict which one will
sink first. They place the lid horizontally on top of the
water and watch. They are sometimes's not
always the one with the most holes! Sometimes if a 1-hole
lid has been used repeatedly and is very wet it will sink
faster than a new lid with 3 holes! HMMMM!
*Set the timer for 1 many times can you write
your name, count to 10, sing the ABC song? How many jumping
jacks, toe-touches, arm circles can you do in 1 minute? Kids
love competing with each other!
*Use the stopwatch and a list of activities, write how long
it takes for each one...tie your shoe, write the alphabet,
stack 20 unifix cubes, make a pattern with pattern blocks,
sort magnetic letters into capitals and lowercase, pick out
all the yellow teddy bear counters in a box, etc. Students
are very capable of working a stopwatch and a timer!
*Weight: You need a balance scale and a regular tabletop
*Compare different, crayon box, bottle of
glue, pencil eraser, tennis ball...which weighs the most,
least...order them.
*Non-standard measurement of many teddy bear
counters will it take to equal (or balance) this paintbox,
ball of clay, bag of dimes, bag of feathers, etc.
*At Thanksgiving I buy 5 or 6 different types of small
gourds. I label each of them with a letter on the bottom.
They children have to measure the mass in teddy bear
counters and put in order by weight.
*Also at Thanksgiving I put a miniature pumpkin in the
measuring center. They have to measure the circumference
(with a piece of yarn and hold it against a ruler), find out
how many candy corns, paperclips, and unifix cubes it would
take to equal the length of the circumference string, find
the height in unifix cubes, and weight in teddy bear
*Quantity: I have a big rice tub. I also use a bean tub. I
provide many different containers (labeled with letters),
scoops, and funnels.
*They use the scoops and funnels (that's the rule)to find
out which container is the biggest (tallest doesn't always
mean biggest!)
***Measurement and estimation/graphing center activities
*They scoop, fill, and label on a paper how many scoops it
took to fill different containers.
*Sometimes I put a box of rubber bands in the rice tub.
They pour in five scoops and mark the level with a
rubberband around the outside of the container. Pour in
five more, mark it, continuing until it's full. Sometimes
it's every 2 scoops, or 3...a great way to practice skip
*Later they use actual measuring cups. I recommend starting
with beans (easier to handle and clean up!) and then move up
to rice. Sand would probably work too.
*Area/perimeter: I mainly just want them to get the concept
that perimeter is the distance around and area is the whole
*I provide simple little outline pictures (Ghost at
Halloween, Turkey at Thanksgiving, Gingerbread man at
Christmas, egg at Easter, Dolphin with an ocean unit, etc.)
Then I provide manipulatives (often edible) to measure
around or inside. For example, for Halloween this year, the
kids had a picture of a pumpkin and a bag of popped popcorn.
They had to find the perimeter by placing the popcorn around
the shape and then the area by placing a layer of popcorn
over the entire shape. (Not an exact science, but enough to
get the point across!) Then afterwards, they get to eat the
popcorn. (mind you, this was just plain popcorn from a
bottle...pour a bit in a paper sack and put it in the
microwave for a couple of minutes the same as
microwave p