Most of the time when we talk about toolboxes in teaching, it’s inevitably the student toolbox to which we are referring. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but today let’s chat a bit about what your teacher math station toolbox looks like.
Like anything in teaching, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how you run your math stations, but you can benefit from seeing how other teachers do things. I hope you get at least one idea or spark of inspiration from taking a peek inside my own math station toolbox. Of course, your toolbox will vary based on the slides or math block style you prefer. After years of trying it all, this is by far the way that works best for me and my classroom (thank you, timesaving slides FTW ? ).
Here’s the deal with my math block preferences. On an ideal day, I’d start with a short class meeting (some days this included a mini-lesson, other days it included a math station modeling session, other days it was a quick hello and off to our respective jobs.) Then, I’d see 3-4 small groups as the students move throughout the room rotating between math stations with their partners.
Between stations, mid-transition, I do a quick check of student math journals, and the motions repeat. There’s obviously a lot more to it than one paragraph can tell but for the sake of brevity and a frame of reference, there you have it.
So why a toolbox?
Great question. I’m referring both to your literal and metaphorical toolbox since some of these things I’m about to list do not fit into your standard Craftsman 500 (or whatever toolboxes are called–a handy person I am not).
Without further ado, here is mine:
Like peanut butter and jelly, these two just work together.
2. Class set of whiteboards
This goes without saying, but please get these. However possible. Make a Donors Choose if you have to. Get yourself a classroom set of dry erase boards. and then for the love of everything holy, skip ahead to #9 and do that too. #yourewelcome
3. Math journal
This also requires a class set of spiral notebooks. A cart like this one works like a dream for making your math station toolbox on wheels.
4. These plastic shoeboxes
I use these for everything under the sun. Their versatility transcends math. These are great because labels adhere well to them, they are decently durable for one buck a piece, and they are a great size for little hands. Bonus points: they stack. They do get their fair share of cracks along the way but they are cheap so I’ll take it. My favorite ones are from The Dollar Tree, but you can find variations of these in any big box store.
5. Log-in lanyards
What a freaking game-changer these bad boys are. I made a meme a while back that I think sums it up 🙂 Get them free here.
6. Dot stickers
Great for color-coding and differentiating station materials. I use green, yellow, and blue for my 3 levels of work and along with the folders mentioned below these stickers help keep everything straight.
7. Colored folders
Same concept as above, but useful for storing worksheets if different levels are using different physical materials as well. Most of the time, I try to differentiate by changing up things like number of dice, number of digits you choose, etc. but sometimes it calls for a worksheet and folders are the tried and true method. Pro tip: make sure you explicitly teach stacking papers and placing them in a folder pocket neatly.
8. Pocket chart with photo cards
I love this for visually showing students which stations they will be visiting any day. I take these photos the first day of school and use them for at least 15 different things throughout the year.
A visual timer is helpful for students so they know how much time is remaining. Bonus points if it comes with a chime to signal the next transition!
10. Individual flash cards
These are a bit of a pain to maintain but worth it, in my humble opinion. I had great success with this fluency program I created, and it paid off bigtime for each student to have their own tailored set of flash cards so I knew the time they were spending on fluency was *just* what they needed. I think a big reason this worked was because I used math station time to also have students cut out and initial flash cards (they inevitably get lost), so it’s something to consider if you go this route!
My heart–these keychains are a beast to put together (give yourself a few hours) but MY GOD do they help all year long. Need a number line? Go get your keychain. Don’t remember your iReady password? Get your keychain. I mean…I’m telling you.
12. Magic erasers cut into pieces
Very specific, I know.
I’d say my math station toolbox is a definite mix of classroom management and academic-focused. No matter what your math station toolbox looks like, I guarantee it can make your independent math centers a heck of a lot easier!
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