More on Math Stations

I have gotten more comments and questions on my Math Rotations than on any other post to date.  (Well, that's a generalization (kinda) because I'm not counting giveaways...working on generalizations this week, can you tell?

Anyway, I thought I would clarify some of the questions in a blog post rather than just responding by email.  It might help other people, too, who are trying to figure out how rotations work and just haven't left a comment.

Why Did I Start Math Rotations?

I started rotations at the end of January.  Click here to see why I wanted to start math rotations in the first place.

It took me a good month to get all of the kinks worked out.  I'm assuming it would take at least that long, if not longer, in the fall.  I'll venture to say longer because you are still establishing classroom routines/behavior, etc.

I also must throw a disclaimer out there at the beginning: I have a certified resource teacher in my room during the time that I do rotations.  Now, she is "primarily" there for her 4 resource students, but she has helped out a lot as far as how I manage disruptions.  With that being said, she is ONLY in the room for the first two rotations.  So, I know this works with only one adult in the room, too.

Questions I've Received About Math Rotations

1-How long do the rotations last?
2-Do I grade what they do in stations and when do I go over the work they do in stations?
3-How do I handle "problems" - talking off topic, too loud, early finishers, interrupting teacher at small group table, etc.?

It's probably best if I go through a step-by-step.  This may answer these questions and then maybe some more.

How do the groups work? I have 4 ability-based groups.  Groups have been established by me in advance.  These groups have not changed since our last MAP testing.  So, these groups don't change each week.  That would totally blow my mind and the minds of at least half of my students. 

Each group rotates together.  So, looking at the picture below, Group 1 would go to Math Facts first, then to Teacher's Choice (small group), the At Your Seat (Independent Practice work from the book) and finally to Hands On (iPods, Hot Dots, Cootie Catchers, etc.).

At the beginning (in January), I would stand next to the board and point to where they were going next at the beginning of each rotation.  I don't have to do that anymore.  They are well trained :)  Also in January, I would read off the list of who was in Group 1, Group 2, etc. at the beginning of math so that there weren't any questions about which rotation a student should be following.  A list of the groups is also posted next to the board on a sheet.{And if you read all the way to the end of this post, it's yours for FREE :) }

The kiddos know their group.  They know who is missing when the get to a rotation faster than I do.  They help each other make sure they are in the right station.  Lord help those that aren't!  (And not from me either...they love to set each other straight!)

Our Routine
Math is the first subject I teach in the morning.  When my students come into the classroom, they get out spelling homework and agendas which I check ASAP.  They "get settled" and watch our morning news.  While the news is still on {gasp}, I tell them to look at our rotation board to figure out what we are doing for the day:

We start rotations at approximately 7:45 each day.  Each rotation last for approximately 12 minutes.  That gives them plenty of time in each rotation to complete all the work assigned.  I also monitor and adjust that during the middle.  For example, if during the first rotation the group that is completing the Independent Practice (At Your Seat rotation) didn't get through the entire assignment, I will cut it down a bit.  Make sense?

When the students come back to me (Teacher's Choice) they do these things:

1- They check their homework.  I've printed off 6 copies of the answer key for the homework (from Pearson).  My students are able to check their work at my table while I am walking around making sure everyone is at their assigned station and know what to do.  This gives me about 2 minutes to monitor behavior, look over work (to make sure it is being done), answer questions about problems that they might have encountered up to this point.  (They know to wait until I am able to help-meaning don't interrupt me at my small group table...Heaven Help!)

Also during this time, those students who are in the "Hands On" station are coming up to me to get the iPod.  I don't currently have a system for this.  (I only have 3).  They just know that if they used it the day before, then it is not their turn that day.  They are pretty good about this.  This causes very minimal disruption, but I'm going to work out an even better plan soon. 

2- I start my small group instruction.  I tailor this to meet individual needs based on their instructional level.  For example, I will go into more detail and use higher-level questioning with my highest group.  I will pull questions from the "challenge" pages from the book.  For the lower students, I will pull from the "reteaching" pages for examples.

3-If I am introducing a new foldable, this will primarily be completed in small group.  I usually will get them started and they will finish at their seats.

Hands On-What Most People Think of As a Station or Center

Like I have said, I primarily use the iPods for my hands-on rotation.  However, I also use Hot-Dots and Cootie Catchers (Thanks Jen).  I haven't perfected the Hands-on portion of my rotations yet.  My kids love the iPods and I've downloaded several games for them to play. Currently, we are using these apps:

 I have them in a "math" folder on my phone and on the two iPods that I have in my classroom.  Currently, I am making them do the Math 4 Testing Prep app.  It cost $2.99 but is so worth it.  Here's why I have to hand it to them during the beginning of each rotation.  First, for every student, I click on Practice Quiz.

My higher students are able to complete 25 questions in 12 minutes, my lower students I only choose 10:

 Here are some sample questions:

See, I told you the $2.99 is worth it.  (By the way, two of my iPods are synced together so I only had to purchase this app once for those two devices.)  When they are finished, they bring it back to me to show me their score. 

What About Their "Work" During Rotations?

After all rotations are complete, we come back together as a whole group.  This is usually a few minutes before 8:45.  I have the students lay out (lie out...pleh) their Independent Practice and their Math 4 Today side by side on their desks.  I go around and check to see what was completed.  If I'm not satisfied, they go "on the board".  No questions.  I had to be tough about this to make sure they are not goofing off during their rotations.  If they go "on the board" then they re-do all work at lunch and/or at recess.  I RARELY have to put anyone on the board anymore.  They know I mean business.

We go over the Math 4 Today that they completed during the Math Facts rotation.  Then, we go over the Independent Practice Work.  {Oh, read here to learn more about how this is independent work from the previous day's small group lesson.}  I have them check their work with their own pen.  I go around and check student papers as we are going over the work. Do I grade their stations?  Simply: No.  We grade these babies to death as it is....My opinion is that my students know that I hold them accountable for the work.  They work hard.

Let me show you what I mean.  The other day, this sweet group (Group 2) didn't have the iPods, they were dead or something...and look at what they did ON THEIR OWN.  They formed a small group with one of them as the "teacher".  They were using Jen's Cootie Catchers and he was "quizzing" them.


He's the only boy in that group, so they were kind to him and "let" him be the leader (I guess). 

So, naturally, I went and grabbed the camera!  My teaching know the ONE.  Her words?

All together now:  Stop it :)

(Stacy that was for you...leave me a comment below...which means you have to sign up in Blogger or Google Reader...JUST DO IT!)

Anyway-if you made it

Here's your freebie for reading the whole thing.  OK, even if you didn't read the whole thing, you can still grab the freebie:
It's the Group Chart that I hang up next to our rotation board so Just In Case someone forgets his group, it's posted!  Grab it from TPT or TN.

Happy Monday!

I'm linking this to Classroom Freebie's Manic Monday!  You should link up, too!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


  1. What a wonderful post Elizabeth! Thank you so much for posting how you do your math stations!

    :) Kaitlyn

  2. Amazing detail in this post! Thanks so much for sharing! (And I love your super cute blog design!)

    Mrs. Tilmon Says...

  3. I agree with the others--this was wonderful! Thank you for sharing all of this Elizabeth!!

  4. Elizabeth,
    Thanks so much for sharing this journey with us! I am working towards using math stations and guided math for next year so your experience adn suggestions are very helpful!
    Confessions of a Teaching Junkie
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  5. This is a great post! Very helpful but I still have a few questions. When do you teach new concepts? During the group time with you? If so how do you cover a new concept in 12 minutes?

  6. I have the same question as above...When do you teach new concepts? Whole group or small group? Also, did you create your math rotation board or purchase it somewhere?

  7. I'm wondering if the lessons are taught whole group and the rotation is the next day? I teach through problem solving almost always. Students work in groups and do their work on chart paper and then we consolidate by sharing through a Gallery Walk, Math Congress or BANSHO. I'm thinking that concepts could be taught and practiced over 3 or 4 days. First day problem. Second day consolidation. Third day rotations. I'm not sure everything could be covered that way but maybe. How do you manage it?