A look at practical solutions for a primary math program.

Today I’m sharing a list of simple but effective changes I made in my classroom to make my math program more successful. Hopefully they will help you, too!

## THE PROBLEM…

Does this sound familiar to you?

I’d finish a math lesson, and then before students went off to work, I’d ask if there were any questions. All the little heads would shake no, and everyone seemed happy and confident skipping off to their desks.

## HOWEVER…

Soon enough, those early finishers would start hovering around, wanting me to check their work and wondering what they should do next. I’d think: How did they finish so quickly? Did I underestimate the time it would take to complete this work?

No, I didn’t. When I DO look at their work, I realize that there are a lot of little errors, and they’ve rushed through it, **leaving ME with a bunch of correcting and scrambling for early finisher work**.

That’s when I realized I’ve spent all this time creating, teaching, and marking something that took them 10 minutes and is filled with careless answers.

**How did this become okay!? It’s NOT okay!**

## THE SOLUTIONS…

The students themselves should be more involved in:

*correcting their own work

*thinking about their work

*being engaged in discussions about their work

Students should be self-checking, peer checking, and doing their best possible work BEFORE handing it to me.

With this in mind, I started making answer sheets available to them. This did help a bit, but it didn’t actually offer a way to understand why they made mistakes or help them form habits of self-checking before marking.

They had no way to understand why they had the wrong answers, or engage in discussions about multiple strategies with peers.

I decided my math block needed a complete overhaul.

## STEP 1: SELF CHECKING PAGE FORMATS

My first step was to reformat my math pages to **integrate the answers into the page itself. **

This made the pages self-checking because although I wrote the answers on the bottom of the page, but didn’t identify which answers belonged to which question. They had to search for it. However, if their answer was not in the list, they’d better check their answer again. This alone saved a ton of my marking time.

My students were intrigued! “You mean the teacher is **giving us ALL the answers** right there on the page?!” they asked. This seemed just too good to be true!

Yes, the answers are right there – you just have to find them.

## NEW PAGE DESIGNS

The success of this led to some variations in how I designed math pages:

*Find My Partner Format: Color the question and answer the same color. There should not be any circles without a partner by the end.

*Bubble Answers Format: The answers are in the “bubbles” at the bottom of each page. Students found and colored each of their answers as they went along. This gave students much more skill at problem solving and self-correcting when they didn’t see their answer in a bubble! Students also have a friend check their work before handing it in, so there’s lots of great peer-discussion going on.

*Cut and Paste Sorting Format where each answer has to fit within a category, so they are self-checking in that way.

*Border Answers Format: The answers are around the edges of the page to make a colorful border once we’re done. In the picture below, students have to simply color their question and answer with the same color.

**The peer-checking component** was a real game-changer and so popular. Students found a friend who was also finished to check over their work. Students take this very seriously because they are marking work and signing their name, and essentially that means they are PRACTICALLY the teacher (for that few moments, anyway!)

** **** STEP – DIFFERENTIATION**

I teach a multi-age class, so the next step was to find a way to engage everyone.

I am always aware that my younger students can be easily overwhelmed by too much information on the page. At the same time, my older students need a solid challenge to keep them engaged.

The solution was to make three different version of each task; this made everyone happy and I only had to explain one task. Moreover, I used this same format for many different math skills through the year so I didn’t have to re-create the page – just the content!

** **** IDEA 3: REFERENCE POSTERS **

We generally make anchor charts when introducing new concepts.

We add to them and refer to them through the entire few weeks of study.

They are NOT pretty, and can get a bit messy, but they are AUTHENTIC and created together.

Rather than lose all of that learning, I started turning our anchor charts into quick reference posters. These posters are added to our math wall, and we refer back to them throughout the entire year.

Further, I turned our math reference posters wall into a math center.

Students use a pointer and take turns being the “teacher”. They go through each poster and explain to their “students” what the chart is about. So simple, yet, students love it, and what an amazing review of all math concepts! It keeps concepts fresh even months later.

I would highly recommend trying this!

You can make your own, and if you’d like to see examples of the results you can also download all of my addition and subtraction strategy posters. They are a FREE download at the end of this post.

** **** IDEA 4: HANDS ON CENTERS & GOARD GAMES**

The majority of our math time is spent exploring concepts with hands-on math centers.

Some have been purchased by our school, but I’ve also created my own printable centers for all math topics.

These are simple tasks involving sorting and matching – easy to print out and store in an envelope. I leave these out all year so students can choose their favorites. We have over 80 different printable centers now!

My students also love board games, so I created some basic board games to practice core skills that could be played independently as a review.

** **** IDEA 5: ORGANIZATION**

With so many resources, there must be a good system of organization involved.

The materials purchased by my school that are hands-on are stored in math bins and available as math center choices. I store my printable centers and game boards in storage bins with several drawers so students can access them easily.

When storing the differentiated printable workbooks, I prefer to store all of them in a large math binder.

Each unit is separated by a labeled tab. Within each section I can quickly locate differentiated versions of each page. I quickly take out the pages needed for each unit, and put them back under the correct tab for next year.

It keeps us organized and efficient!

## PUTTING IT ALL INTO ACTION!

I hope these ideas inspire you with new ideas for your math materials!

If you make your own worksheets for your class, feel free to try one of the self-checking ideas.

If not, you can download my entire year of workbooks and centers – all ten units for the grade one year.

Choose JUST THE WORKBOOKS HERE

Choose JUST THE PRINTABLE CENTERS HERE

Choose the WORKBOOKS AND CENTERS HERE

You can see more details of the whole collection on one page by clicking HERE.

Each set has a preview so you can see the pages inside.

## THE MATH UNITS:

Math Sense

Addition to 10

Subtraction to 10

Geometry

Equations to 20

Double Digit Addition and Subtraction

Place Value

Measurement

Word Problems

If you’d like to see some of the reference posters in the binder, you can download these ones for free!

## BONUS IDEA: NUMBER OF THE DAY

A great way to warm up each day – pick a new number and think about it!

Here’s the blank Number of the Day template we use in our classroom. We use it for a daily warm up, a quick math center with differentiated numbers, and even as homework to do with parents.

I’m happy to share it! You can download it for your students for free by clicking below.

Pin this freebie for later!

Pin this post for later!

Lori says

I love MATH. Math On! What a great assortment here.

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

Math is my new favorite time of day now! : )

Jayne MacMillan says

What a great website to have come across. I really love some of your activities. However, I am in the UK and I wonder if you have a UK version. Eg colour instead of color.

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

Hi Jayne! Thank you for the kind comments! While I do not have the UK spelling for math products, I do have several sets made specifically with the UK spelling for phonics: Sentence Building and Secret Sentences, which are located under the phonics drop down tab on my blog, or the same sections within the custom categories on my TPT homepage. Here are two links -hope that helps!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Australian-UK-Version-Sentence-Building-Kit-1-70-pgs-1142556

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/UK-Australian-Version-Sentence-Building-Kit-2-Whimsy-Workshop-Teaching-1710610

Becky Spence says

Can I just say that you’re absolutely brilliant! Love all the ideas shared, especially making the pages self-checking. Thank you for sharing your creativity, with your math activities AND your amazing clip art!!

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

What a nice surprise to find this lovely comment today! I appreciate it very much!

Angela says

It would be super if you had something similar available for English language arts as well. Love my new binder. Busy filing.

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

I do have something in the works! The year-long binders take a year to create. : )

Becki Smythe says

Love these! So bright, cheery and fun! Thank you so much. We are going to work on number of the day over summer…just for fun.

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

Wonderful to hear! : )

Jane says

Wow!! I am very impressed and so disappointed that it was a grade 1 resource, as it seems the answer to my prayers.

Sascha says

Hi there,

Your ideas and resources are amazing! I have tried to add myself to your mailing list several times – on both my work and personal email – but the confirmation email won’t come through…?

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

Hi Sascha! Sorry to hear you’re having trouble! I’d love to have you join us on the mailing list. I do see your email address in the list we have sent a confirmation to, so that usually means it’s being filtered to your spam folder. If you can’t find it, you can email me directly and I can add you manually so you don’t miss out on anything else! Not to worry though, once you get the first email, you’ll have access to all the older free items in the secret resource page. Good luck!

Cathy Stolle says

Would love to see something at fourth grade level:) this stuff looks fantastic.

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

Thank you Cathy! I specialize in primary, so I don’t have expertise in fourth – but I think fourth graders would love the self-checking aspect! Thanks for commenting! : )

Lisa says

Do you have a grade two version? This looks amazing!!

Whimsy Workshop Teaching says

Hi Lisa! I don’t have a grade two version, but I use this set with my grade 1/2 split because most of the templates have easy and harder versions, so I just choose which one is more appropriate. It works really well because the page looks the same for both grades, just differentiated. Thanks for the comment!