Creating Secondary Math Centers

Centers day is my favorite day of the week. My students have fun, learn from each other, and do most of the talking. On top of that, I uncover tons of relevant information on student mastery and growth. But let me clarify – our centers have not always been this fun and successful. They used to be pretty miserable. Today I’m going to share how I created a meaningful and joyful structure in my classroom using math centers. The first step is organization. Most of the materials are in one packet and students just work on whatever page that corresponds with the Center that they are located at. When designing centers, you want to ensure that everything is ready and waiting for students to engage. Timing and directions are another important part of organization –  consistently behavior narrate expectations to ensure that your students receive feedback on their alignment with the directions and have an opportunity to quickly correct if needed. By having each Center last for 6-8 minutes I also ensure that students have ample and urgent work to complete, cutting down on time to get bored and act out.

Again, my Centers days go well only when I begin with ridiculously clear and explicit directions. I always share our centers rules and make sure to check for understanding in order to ensure that students are listening and have internalized the rules. Here is what I share:

p1 p2 p3

After grounding ourselves in the overall structure of centers, we clarify the directions for each station. I no longer have to do this for my students,  but it is important the first time you conduct centers to make sure everybody understands what is expected. Below is a breakdown of all directions on the first page of the centers packet. Here is the First Page of my Centers packet that I gave two weeks ago. Also, I think you should follow up the directions page with a page that has a rough outline of your classroom and what students should be doing at each station. The following is an example of a graphic that I display on the Smart Board while students are working at stations. This gives students a graphic reminder of what they should be doing at what Center:


Centers Directions

Center 1: KABOOM

·         During the Game of KABOOM, students will practice some of the concepts that they’ve learned throughout this review week

·         The Table Manager will serve as the judge for the KABOOM game!

·         Everyone should be having fun at this station! Do not ruin it by getting into petty arguments about the game!

·         Once the timer is up and Mr. JB tells you to transition, the team manager will come to the front and write down the name of the winner!


Center 2:  Student Work Corrections

·         At this station, students will be responsible for correcting student work with the people at their table.

·         Each question is answered WRONG. Therefore, students must use 2 FULL SENTENCES to explain what is wrong with the student answer.

·         Students must also show the correct answer on the page with the correct work shown.

·         All writing at this station must be done with a RED PEN

Center 3: Match Solutions to Equations

·         Students will match and connect all equations on the left side with the solutions on the right side.

·         Make sure to utilize your white board and marker to break down all equations.

·         There is one solution for every equation, make sure each one is matched up.

Center 4:  Kaboom

·         During the Game of KABOOM, students will practice some of the concepts that they’ve learned throughout this review week

·         Everyone should be having fun at this station! Do not ruin it by getting into petty arguments about the game!

·         Once the timer is up and Mr. JB tells you to transition, the team manager will come to the front and write down the name of the winner!


Center 5:  Exponent and Square Root Review Work

·         At this station use the Real Numbers  chart to answer all multiple choice questions.

·         Next to each multiple choice question you are responsible for WRITING ONE SENTENCE explaining how you know your answer is correct.



Types of centers in my classroom

There is an endless amount of ideas for centers that teachers can use to help develop your students as Math Scholars. Kaboom is an awesome fast paced game for students to focus on correcting common computational errors by incentivizing it with the creation of a board game. This Center is not used to have students produce lengthy justifications for their work. Instead this game exists to give students speedy remediation that will hopefully help with reoccurring computational issues going forward.

The following are directions for the game Kaboom that is huge success within my class! I would tape these directions at the table for Kaboom

Students at table 4 will play a game of Kaboom!

  1. The team leader will serve as the judge during all games of Kaboom!

  2. During Kaboom, students will take turns pulling strips from the KABOOM box

  3. The judge will have the answer key. If a student gets a question right they get to keep their strip. If they get it wrong the strip goes in the middle and nobody gets it.

  4. If Students get the “KABOOM” strip, they must put all of the strips that they have

  5. The student with the most strips at the end of the center time wins!

  6. Judges must keep track of who wins and at the end of each game write the winners name on the board

  7. Each game of Kaboom will last for 7 minutes.

  8. No one is allowed to argue with the judge.

  9. Winners of Kaboom will each win a piece of candy.


When filling Kaboom Cans with questions it is important that it contains multiple choice questions that are not too intricate. This is supposed to be a fast paced game so I would just fill the cans with questions that are purely remedial  like the four below. I’d fill each can with about 18 questions.


The judge will be given an answer key as followed. To save you some time, I would just look up multiple choice questions from the internet and just use those questions. The answer key will probably be made available on whatever site you get the questions from.


The special strips that add an element of luck are as followed. I would include about four of each of the following four strips.


Kaboom is an awesome game, just make sure you behavior narrate and make your expectations explicitly clear at all times. Things can get dicey during competition, especially when pride/candy is on the line. With that being said, this is a great activity to get student to focus on sources of common mistakes.

Getting students to work on error analysis is really important in my class because it allows students to recognize common patterns and traps that they are falling into! Essentially the student becomes the teacher!  Error Analysis really helps to develop students as metacognitive thinkers. I use this Station get my students to point out some of the common mistakes that they make on Exit Tickets and have discussions with each other about the work. This is a copy of the blank center page.


And here is a copy of the same student work filled out by one of my students with his corrections on it.


The last center that I used this week was a matching activity in which students had to match solutions to corresponding equations. I made it up myself and it encouraged great discussion amongst students about the material.


Also, you should have an extra activity at the end of the Centers packet for higher students who finish their assignment/packet early. This extra activity isn’t just supposed to be something “extra” that kids can do, but instead it serves the purpose of ensuring that students who finish early have something to do to ensure that they are not distracting others. Usually I include more difficult problems at the end, but sometimes I put a Sudoku at the end of the packet as a special challenge to students and if they are able to finish one, I give them a bag of hot chips .Just don’t let students access any computers with the Sudoku or they will look up the answers like my student Lyric did one time.

In conclusion, Centers can be a great way for students to have fun in your class while developing themselves as math learners. The more diverse and flushed out your centers are the higher chance there is for success! Make sure that your directions are incredibly explicit and that you are constantly moving throughout the classroom while behavior narrating. Do not use centers too often in your class because if the appeal wears off then students can get bored/apathetic really quick. I try to pull it off once or twice a month at most!

On Thursday, 11/19 I plan on rolling out a Centers session in Cleveland in which you will go through and participate in some of the Centers that were talked about within this Blog Post! Please register on the course catalog and attend if you need any help developing these, and please reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns about the integrating Centers into your Math Classroom!

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