Today I’m sharing a list of simple but effective changes I made in my classroom to make my math program more successful. So often after a lesson I’d ask if there were any questions, and all little heads would shake “nope”, and everyone seemed fully confident as they went off to complete their task.
Soon enough, those early finishers start hovering around, wanting me to check their work and wondering what they should do next. 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.
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 students themselves should be more involved in:
*correcting their own work
*thinking about their work
*being engaged in discussions about their work
THEY 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, 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 Format
My first step to change was when I decided to integrate the answers into the page itself, so that the work was self-checking. I wrote the answers on the page, but didn’t identify which answers belonged to which question. They had to search for it.
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! Haha! Oh yes, the answers are right there! You just have to find them.
It was simple: students solve a problem, then find and color their answer in a circle below until there aren’t any answers left. If their answer isn’t there, then they have to go back and check their work.
Then, the idea grew: what if the answers were around the edges of the page?
What if you had to find and color two circles with matching question and answer?
What if you had to cut and sort, or build a picture that would be revealed as you answered the questions?
Throughout the school year, I tried to use the students’ favorite practice formats with each new math topic we studied:
*Find My Partner: Color the question and answer the same color. There should not be any circles without a partner by the end.
*Bubble Answers: 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.
*Border Answers: Sometimes we put the answers around the edges of the page to make a colorful border once we’re done. Each questions gets its own color, as shown below.
*We have lots of other cut and paste sorting pages where each answer has to fit within a category, so they are self-checking in that way.
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 2 – Differentiation
I teach a multi-age class, so the next step was to find a way to engage everyone. I needed practice pages that would challenge my older students, and more simple pages that would prevent my younger students from being overwhelmed. The solution was to make three different version of each task; this made everyone happy and I only had to explain one task. In the picture below, students have to simply color their question and answer with the same color.
Step 3 – Reference Posters
We turned all of our old anchor charts into reference posters that stayed up on a designated math wall. At least once per week, students volunteer to review/explain the concepts on all the posters to the class so we don’t forget what they are about!
Students love this chance to “be the teacher”! If you’d like to use the posters I have already created with my class, you can download all of my addition and subtraction strategy posters below – they’re free!
Step 4 – Hands-On Centers & Games
Next, we needed some fun math centers to continue with our practice. We have practiced the skills all year long with hands-on centers to reinforce strategies so that skills taught in September don’t get forgotten! We have over 80 different 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.
Step 5 – Organization
With so many resources, there must be some organization involved. Otherwise you’ll find bags of sorting center pieces at the back of your art closet, or you’ll lose the differentiated versions of your favorite printable.
I’ve put everything together for each of the ten core math units: one set is just the printables, and the other set is just the printable math centers. I just take out the pages needed for each unit, and put them back under the correct tab for next year. My sorting centers and game boards are kept in clear pocket pages so we don’t lose any pieces.
It keeps us organized and efficient.
The reason I’ve separated the workbooks and centers is to make it easier to separate, especially for those who only wish to use one or the other. For example, if your school already uses a math workbook, you can choose just the centers, and vice versa. Or, you can choose each set individually – it will include both the workbooks and math centers for just that one unit skill.
Click to see the printable centers alone (925 pages).
Click to see the workbook pages alone.
Please note that each of these sets has been set to match a bundled price, so you can purchase them BOTH for a full year set at a price to match a much reduced bundle price.
If you’d like to see some of the reference posters in the binder, you can download these ones for free!
You may also find our blank Number of the Day template useful in your classroom! We use it for a daily warm up, a quick math center with differentiated numbers, and even as homework to do with parents.
Looking for more literacy or math resources – or clip art? Click the picture to get this clickable resource list!