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Create a special math center in your classroom this year where children can “discover” and reinforce math concepts. You could use a table, shelf, or quiet corner in your classroom. Store materials in zip bags, baskets, shoe boxes, or a storage tub. Label each container with the name and a picture of the item. Model how to use the materials and clean up. Begin by putting out one activity at a time. When children have learned how to use one activity and clean up, then add another. Children should have several choices, but don’t overwhelm them by too many materials at once.
Here are some common objects that will give children opportunities to count, sort, compare, add, and subtract.
Counters: shells, rocks, buttons, toothpicks, keys, bottle caps, peanuts, pasta, paint chips, erasers, small toys, craft sticks, birthday candles, hair bows, small cars, crayons, party favors, leaves
Sorting: sorting box, divided serving dishes, flannel board and felt pieces
One-to-One: muffin pan, ice cube tray
Numbers: dice, deck of cards, number puzzles, tactile numerals, dominoes, board games
Patterns: pattern blocks, sewing beads, peg board, unifix cubes
Writing: chalkboard, wipe off board, paper, pencils
Counting: dice, number line, hundreds chart, counting cubes
Geometry: geoboard, felt shapes, attribute blocks, 3 dimensional shapes
Time: toy clock, stop watch, minute timer
Money: play money, US coins, foreign coins, coupons
Measurement: ruler, tape measure, balance scale, measuring cups and spoons
Addition: unifix cubes, calculator, games
What else? computer, play telephone, counting books, number poster
Hint! Relate counters and math manipulatives to seasons or themes. For example, if you are doing an ocean unit, have shells to count and short. In the fall, you might want to have nuts or leaves in the math center.