Math Centers for Emerging Learners

Categories: Academics | Math

Let’s Talk Math Centers!

I LOVE centers. They can transform your classroom! You teach so much more than just academics in centers – students are learning to take turns, listen and attend to others, how to wait and how to share. Centers for emergent learners look a little different than typical general education centers, but they can still be done successfully. Last week I covered ELA centers for emerging learners, and this week I want to talk all about math centers. Here are some quick, easy math ideas for you to incorporate into centers. 

Block Design

This oldie, but goodie is a perfect addition to centers! In this center, I make a block design, then give students a variety of blocks to imitate my design. This can be done with any blocks you have. Here I’m using magnatiles, which are highly preferred in my classroom. I’ve used regular blocks, legos, magnetic blocks, number cubes and duplos. Pick your materials based on your learners ability. Make it harder by setting out extra pieces students don’t need, and make it easier by laying out the exact blocks students will use. 


Dice are my go-to for math centers! Try having students roll and count or roll and identify numbers. Or, use blank dice and create your own games and learning targets. For example, I added shapes to dice, color dots to dice, and had students identify the shape or color.

Patterns & Sorting

There are a million ways to work on patterning and sorting. I love hands on approaches. These trays are from Lakeshore learning and make sorting and pattering easy. For a simple, cheap choice, try using an ice tray. 


Number ID and Matching

One of the first skills we teach is matching. From matching we move to receptive number ID, then expressive number ID. To work on these skills, I use a variety of different number manipulatives. I have magnet numbers, erasers numbers, flash cards with numbers on them, and fun number cut outs. Below are some fun magnets and sets of number erasers. These both came from Target Dollar Spot and make for great, hands-on manipulaitves. 

Jump In

No matter where your learners are, you can find success with centers. Start with where you students are, add in some fun and familiar tasks, and get a plan on how to rotate from center to center. Start small – centers can be impactful with a small amount of time. In my K-2 room, I start my centers around 4 minutes at the start of the year, and work my way up to 7-9 minute rotations. With a little modification, emerging learners can be super successful with math centers!


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