Math Work Stations Part 2: The Set-Up - Queen of the First Grade Jungle

Math Work Stations Part 2: The Set-Up

So I TOTALLY teased y'all a few months ago with a series of posts about Math Work Stations.  I had a great first post and then ***WALL*** I ran smack into the end of the year crazy. 

But I know will forgive me, because let's face it- the end of the year is sink or swim!  And those little 6-8 year olds are like a hungry school of sharks smelling blood.  I swear the come after their poor, tired teachers! 

If you would like to refresh yourself on Math Workstations Part 1: The WHY here is your link.

I tried to break this post apart into sections that make sense to me.  Disclaimer- I am obviously not the be-all-end-all math workstations guru.  I am a teacher just like you.  I like to try new things until I find what works for myself and my students! I encourage you to do the same!
 Your students need to know where they are going without you have to tell them.  Of course this will take practice and reteaching, but eventually you can dismiss your students to workstations and they automatically should know where to go. 

Here is what the top of my board from this year looked like.  Each name is backed with velcro sticky dots so that each day I can move their names.

 My students go to two workstations a day hence why there are two numbers by the pair of students' names. When I move their names at the end of the day, they will go down two spots.

Something that I have found in my 8 years of teaching (which most of you will say--duh!) is not to rely on tape when you will be moving the names frequently.  Magnetic and Velcro strips/dots are my friends!  

 I have tried a TON of different baskets, but I puffy heart these.  I found them at Walmart, but I have also seen them at Target.  The reason that I love them so much is that they are the perfect size for paper, the center, and any manipulatives the students might need.  To make the baskets pretty, which is obviously very important, I hot glued ribbon from Hobby lobby around the outside of the baskets.  I then hot glued the labels on the front.  These labels can be found **Here**.

Here is a look inside my baskets: 

1. Center 2. Manipulatives 3. Recording Sheet.  This particular Math Work Station can be found in my Sum Fall Fun pack

Erica Bohrer organizes her centers in similar baskets!

I have mixed feelings about recording sheets. I always include them in my TPT packets, BUT I don't always use them.  It seems when there is a recording sheet, sometimes my students rush to finish and be done.  So if they are in a groove and being productive I will save the recording sheet as like a "Flashback" or Exit Slip for another day.   

I am including a few other examples of how people organize their Math Work Stations/Centers.  Like I said earlier, do what works for you!  If it seems difficult to manage when you are setting it up, chances are you will abandon it!  Don't set yourself up for failure!

This example is from Sarah Cooley:  

And this one from Hope King

And this one from Reagan Tunstall: 
 This section is hard for me, because I usually abandon my system about half way through the year and then spend WAY too much time reorganizing each summer. I will tell you that one thing that does work for me.  I like to have a section for all my seasonal stuff like St. Patricks Day and Dr. Seuss would all be in a March tub/file.  Then I also have non-seasonal tubs/files for big Math Topics like money or time.  This way if my kids are struggling and need more practice with a subject I can go to my non-seasonal tub at any point throughout the year!  And because I am locked out of my room, sadly I have not pictures for you yet.  I will update as soon as I do!
When I put my students in pairs (Yes I think this is better than groups of four or more). I will put students in groups of three for special circumstances if I have to.  Like last year, I had a minimal English speaking child who needed more language support.  I will occasionally put three low students in a group if I need to, but like I said in the previous post I personally do not believe in putting the high students with the low students to coach.  I want my high students to challenge each other. I want my low students to feel comfortable asking questions and not copying their peer's answers. 

 My students are allowed to work anywhere in the room that they would like.  I like for them to spread out as much as possible to help with noise.  If they want to, they can work at desks, but the majority of my students prefer to work on the floor.

At the beginning of the year I do not have Map scores or data to help me group students so I will conduct some informal observations to help me pair students. I also warn students that their partnerships may be short term and I will switch them up if they aren't working smoothly!  After I get everyone settled in I like to keep the partnerships for at least a quarter.  I like students to get to know each other well and to create a bond through this learning!

I will use this freebie that I posted yesterday to help me get acquainted with my students early on in the first week:

I will also use this game from my Superhero Students Back to School Pack

I am just going to touch on this a little bit for now, but when students come to me for small group, they come in groups of four.

When I set their names up I try and have students with similar abilities coming to me at the same time.  Meaning all four kids at my table need the same thing from me whether it is remediation or acceleration.  At the beginning of the year I usually have a fairly simple game going with those four students so that I can monitor what is going on around the room as well. 

If you would like to read more about the subject of Math Work Stations please check out Amy Lemons' fantastic post: 

Phew- are you tired???? Well I am!  I am not going to make any promises about when I will be back with more. HA! But, I do plan on writing a Part 3 that shows what will be in my baskets the first two weeks of school!

Until then, do not forget to check out my Christmas in July Sale that just so happens to be Math Work Stations right now!

your photo name


  1. Love the post! I love seeing what others do in their classrooms for Math Stations. I can't wait for the next post.

    The Teacher's Backpack

  2. Thank you for this post- I am moving to first grade after 4 years in PreK (I was first grade for 3 years before that) and am finding myself very overwhelmed!

  3. Can you tell me where at Walmart you found the baskets? What department?

    1. I *think* it was with like laundry/bathroom type stuff!

  4. Thanks for sharing how you do math centers...I love ready how every teacher makes things work!
    -Lovely Nina
    Lovely Nina Designs

  5. This is so helpful! Last year, I found that having my students in partners instead of groups was so much easier. I like how you number each activity! Do you incorporate technology into your stations?

    A Tall Drink of Water

  6. Thank you for the explanation! I love doing math centers but I love hearing new ideas. I always struggle with storage and organization too. Thank you for sharing.

    Ms Richards's Musings

  7. Thanks for sharing!! Will you be teaching second grade this year?


  8. I'm transitioning from 4th to 2nd grade this year so this post helped me wrap my head around how to do stations with the littles. Can't wait for you to share what will be in your baskets the first couple weeks of school because I realllly need help in that department! Thanks!:)
    iTeach 1:1

  9. This was so helpful, thank you! I have lots of new activities for math stations, but haven't done the big Set Up. Thanks to you, now I really can wrap my brain around it all. I especially like your partnership idea, and how you did the bulletin board and rotations. Ah! I can see it all clearly now! ~Kathy

  10. Thank you! Loving this post. I am getting ready to do Guided Math this year and this post is soooo helpful!! ~Sonia

  11. I totally pinned the image of your math center buckets with ribbons the other day, and then didn't come back to read it! I just found you again through TPT because I'm featuring your Sports themed Math Work Stations on my blog today. Hope you get a chance to visit. Can't wait to read Amy's post on them! Thanks so much for sharing these great ideas! XO

    A Teaspoon of Teaching

  12. LOVE this & what an awesome idea sharing other teachers' set-ups. Thanks for number sense freebie! I'm off to go check out the Superheroes & other deals! Jen :)

  13. Grouping students and figuring out how they rotate is the toughest part for me! This needs a post all on it's own #groupingfordummies

    For the Love of First Grade

  14. I love using math work stations but the most I've ever had at one time is 8 and students only go to 1 a day. I really like the idea of them doing more than 1 a day. Is it hard to manage and get materials ready for 12? How often do you change them?

  15. Thanks! I love your posts! I have read so many post about organization and rotations and this one is great! I have wanted to do stations for awhile but it is hard to figure out how to start them. Do you model each station before you start? If so, how do you get through 10 or 12 stations before they start up? Thanks!

  16. Thank you for this awesome post! I just stumbled on it via Pinterest. I want to try out your organization method this fall!

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