Math Center Activities May Include Math Labs and Games


Interesting math center activities keep students engaged and learning. Elementary and middle school math centers may include math labs in addition to games and other fun learning activities.

The best thing is that working in centers gives you the time you need to work with small groups of students which is really the only way to address specific needs and catch kids up.

But what kinds of activities will work for centers? Here are some ideas for centers, all of which I have used myself in sixth grade math this year. My hope is that it will give you ideas for creating your own centers to fit your curriculum and the needs of your students.

Center Categories


COMPUTER CENTER

I have one student computer, two old laptops, and I check out two more laptops from our media center. In order for a game to pass my inspection, it has to have great graphics and target an objective from our Standard Course of Study for sixth grade math.

Students in my homeroom gave each game a "test drive" before I used them for centers. Here are their favorites, which we have used as math center activities this year.

  • The best games we have found are at Mangahigh.com where you can create free accounts for students.

    • PEMDAS Blaster - Order of operations was never this much fun!
    • TranStar - Translations, rotations, and reflections in an inter galactic game that is out of this world!
    • Flower Power - Grow a garden of flowers by placing mixed numerals in ascending order.
    • Pyramid Panic - Practice area, perimeter, and circumference, but be sure to have the answer before the ancient dinosaur arrives!
    • Sigma Prime - Defend Sigma Prime by shooting prime numbers to break down approaching threats. Factor trees appear to the right of the screen - awesome game!


  • Alien Angles from Math Playground - Students must rescue friendly aliens by estimating angles and launching spaceships to bring them to safety.

  • Alien Exponents (Alien Powers) at EZ School - Players defend the planet by solving expressions with exponents.

  • Billy Bug 2 - Kids love to feed Billy Bug by finding grubs at specified locations on the coordinate system. Students use all four quadrants in this version, but the first Billy Bug uses only points in the first quadrant.


Computer centers are fun for kids, but you must make their objectives very clear.




SMARTBOARD CENTER

For this center I use self-paced interactive instruction modules and interactive test preparation sites.

Since probability is huge on our state test, I have searched for activities on this topic. Here are two of the best I have found so far this year:



GAME CENTER

Fraction Dominoes are good for the game center, but you can make your own games, too. Students enjoy creating game boards from posters, and we use those to play the Integer Game that I created.

Also popular as a math center activity in this category is POW!, a card game which I came across on a teacher message board. We play it with a duplicate set of cards from our math word wall which is clearly the best way to learn the correct math terminology.

ART CENTER

This is probably my favorite center. I LOVE seeing how creative and artistic my children can be when given the opportunity.

Use of art in education is a topic about which I am passionate, and teaching math with art is a way I can reach my kids who are right-brained (often left-handed.)

There are many art projects which are ideal math center activities, our most recent being artistic representations of the properties of math.

Math center art project illustrating the identity property of addition.



Math center art project depicting the associative property of addition.



Angry Birds used in a math art center to illustrate the distributive property of multiplication over addition.




Go to Math Centers from Math Center Activities


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LET THE FORCE BE WITH YOU






Important Note: All centers should support reading no matter what the subject area.


Be sure to provide an emphasis on reading in math centers. Reading in math centers establishes a purpose for doing so and is very powerful in helping kids read for meaning.

All centers, no matter what the subject area, should support reading.



Students should read in math centers whenever possible.

Other ways to support reading are to have students follow written instructions and to structure some center activities around math terminology from your math word wall.


Math Labs as Centers


Sometimes I use mini math labs as centers. This gives students an opportunity to measure, collect data, and work with formulas.

I always prepare a lab sheet and provide clipboards on which students record their data and their calculations.

Examples of lab sheets:

Jump Rope Lab - Data Collection and Statistics (mean, median, mode, and range)

Free Throw Data Sheet - Ratio and Proportion

Circle Center - Measurement, area, and circumference