FAQs about Math Stations

My school has recently thoroughly embraced Math workshop which I love. It is now a full expectation for upper grades as well as primary. I started implementing stations during math class my second year teaching math, and I have tried a few iterations over time. I’ve grown more confident in using stations as the primary vehicle of teaching as opposed to just every once in awhile. I’ve expanded my library of manipulatives and games. Recently, a few teachers came to visit my classroom to observe how I do stations due to the coordination of our math resource teacher/STEAM teacher. Below are a few questions they asked me afterwards that might be helpful to someone else.

For reference, here were my plans. Students did 2 stations for 20 minutes each. The next day, they will do the other 2 stations with a different opener. My total math block is 55 minutes.

Fractions and Decimals Day 3 – Numbers have Different Names
Focus Lesson: Numbers have different names – all the ways to write 7 as a group and share out 3 that you think other groups will not have
Groups/Stations:
A) Fractions as Decimals (Divide) with Ms. Stohs
B) Ratios Quiz as Practice – Independent
C) Finish Discovery or Desmos if INC, or try Prodigy
D) Game: Fraction Formula
Homework: Tic Tac Toe 2A

Q: Do you do a whole group focus lesson to begin a unit, or are all of them in small groups in centers?

A: I sometimes will do whole group lessons, but I’ve found that teaching in small groups helps me better know which kids are getting it and which are not. I also can adjust the pace and depth of a lesson depending on the group of kids since I often group students homogeneously.  Part of my lesson almost always includes some kind of active engagement which means I can coach students through that problem as they work. I’m able to coach all 5-6 students in that time frame as opposed to only reaching 5-6/23 in a whole group lesson.

Q: Was the practice test for your students and you an indicator of what they need to work on for the final assessment? Strengths and weaknesses?

A: We have not had our first quiz yet. Since I create all of my own quizzes, I wanted to expose them to my style of quiz. I think this eases anxiety going into the first assessment which unfortunately is fairly typical. I also strongly believe in incorporating retrieval practice, the cognitive strategy of calling information to mind. Quizzing yourself is proven to help you retain information. It works even better when that information is jumbled up.

Q: Are the groups created for academic needs or some other criteria?

A: I often use academic information to create groups, but I try to still mix it up some. For instance, one group has mostly struggling students who are a couple grade levels below, but I put an average student who is friends with one of those kids mixed in, and I’ll change who that is. That can help for a variety of reasons – they can be a peer mentor, they can offer a solution when no one else knows the answer or is volunteering, and they can get a boost of confidence helping others. I do not typically pair my very strongest students and the most struggling learners, but mixing them up within a range is beneficial. You might have noticed my opener was completely randomly grouped. I will add that after quizzes, I mark in my spreadsheet which parts kids struggled in. Each part on my quiz is targeted towards a skill (Part 1 – Mixed Numbers and Improper Fractions, Part 2 – Ratios, Part 3 – Proportions, etc.). I will then group kids based off of the types of errors they make. Naturally, some kids do need help in more than one part, but I usually choose which one is going to make the most impact. Then, in those stations the next couple of days, I will guide students through Quiz Corrections. The rest of the Quiz Corrections they do for homework. Consistently, students tell me this is one of their favorite things I do. I think it’s because they get the help they need with other students who struggled with the same concept, so they’re not self-conscious asking for help because they know everyone in their group got this wrong. If there are students who get close to perfect on a quiz, I group them together, help them with those few errors, then do an extension activity. I have also done quiz corrections where I just call kids by part and everyone is doing another activity at their desk, so some kids get called over far more than others, but I’m able to touch on all of the mistakes.

Q: How often are the centers changed?

A: I change the activity every round of stations (2 days), but I keep a very similar structure and often cycle through similar activities. The 4 stations are usually a station with me, a game, a computer activity, a worksheet or manipulative activity that’s practice like a hands on worksheet. I have a few groups of things I draw from:

  1. Station with me is sometimes a Kahoot quiz game.
  2. Purchased math games (Fraction Formula, Tribulation, Prime Climb, 24, Set…)
  3. Created math games (I have, who has? popsicle sticks, matching games, labeled cups that students order/sort…)
  4. Computer activities (Prodigy, Desmos, online textbook, Brain Pop, Flipgrid, hyperdoc that I create…)
  5. Worksheets (from a variety of sources)
  6. Manipulatives Activity (do a set of problems with exploragons, magformers, drawing problems from a basket and using something like these overlay fraction models I have to show multiplication, etc.)

Q: How do you monitor the results of activities that they do on the websites?

A: The websites have monitoring built into them. Prodigy shows the levels of students. We just started using it, so they aren’t finished with their placement test, but this is what it shows right now. I also can look at the problems that individual students answered. prodigy 2prodigy 1

Desmos also shows progress and accuracy. It’s a much better side for older students, but they do have some challenges that are appropriate for younger ones. desmos

Discovery the textbook shows completion and work as well. If you assign a quiz/test there, they can

When I do hyperdocs on the computer, I post them in google classroom and make them an assignment, so they complete it.

If I use Brain Pop, I either will print the quiz for them to complete after they watch the video or they can print their own quiz and turn it in.

Cue Think is a new website we have access to that I’d like to delve into. It’s a problem solving site so students walk through steps to solve a problem and then they can respond to one another.

Flipgrid can be great for kids modeling how to do something or explaining a situation. They can even present a problem for kids to do and then other kids respond with their answers. I have had kids hold up manipulatives or whiteboards to draw as they record themselves.

I usually do not take grades on these things, but I will show kids how I can monitor their progress. Just checking in with them telling them that I see this missing or this thing is incomplete is usually enough to prompt them to keep working. I am still working on building in those routines, but typically, kids are on task. They want to do stations, so if they aren’t fulfilling expectations, I will tell them stations are taken away and they can work independently for a day. I will start to learn which kids work well together, which friends get off task, etc.

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