Math Stations: My Four Round Approach
My students beg for math stations. Seriously. And the best part? I am still able to sanely work with a small group and collect meaningful data from other stations! IT’S POSSIBLE.
When I first began teaching fourth grade, I felt finding a meaningful student-led station system was difficult. A lot of the resources and blogs were geared towards lower grades, and I really needed something that fit my classroom that my students got excited about. Finally in my third year, I got it right.
My four station “areas” never really change–Seatwork, Work with Teacher, Activity, and Prodigy. However, you can edit these as you feel fit for your own needs, but this is what I tend to go with.
When I Do Stations
I try to do stations about twice per week. I do them after fully introducing the current content/standard for a day or so first.
Classroom Management During Stations
This little rotation flow chart is a lifesaver. You can get it on my TPT here. It stays on my Smartboard for the entirety of stations for that day. The day before I do stations, I give an “exit ticket” via Google Forms/Classroom on the current skill. Based on the results of the ticket, I form groups based on current understandings of the skill. Students know they start at the station where their name is. Then, they know to follow the arrow to the next station and to repeat it two more times. I made the file in Powerpoint and edit it as needed. While this is on the board, I put up a visual timer to the side. Each station lasts 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, the students know to quietly go to the next station. They cannot interrupt my Teacher/Small Group station and must wait to ask any questions until after the round is over. I do restart the timer for each round myself, so it does give me a minute or two to answer any questions as needed.
Station #1: Seatwork
Ah, seatwork. Seatwork is the easiest station to prepare for. It is literally that–work to do at their seats (or a “smart spot around the room,” if you’re flexible like me.) I usually assign one of the worksheets from our curriculum (MyMath by McGraw-Hill) or another one I find/make myself to match the current skill. I don’t give too much as it needs to be complete in about fifteen minutes.
Station #2: Teacher (Small Group)
My math small group usually consists of whiteboards or dry erase pockets (this brightly colored bulk set is to die for) and any manipulatives I may need. We work on the current skill, and I address any areas of growth needed as I’ve seen through my observations both in class and on the exit tickets. Usually one of my groups has mastered the skill already, and this is a great opportunity for extension and enrichment. For my fellow fourth grade teachers, these long division sliders (TPT link) have been a game changer for my small groups. I use them with everyone while learning long division, but they become essential for my struggling students with long division.
Station #3: Prodigy
I have a love/hate relationship with Prodigy, mainly a love relationship though. The only “hate” comes from my students literally never wanting to stop playing it. Prodigy is a free website and app that allows elementary and middle school teachers to align content/standards to an interactive game. For students to advance in the game, they must correctly answer math problems. The teacher chooses the standards/skills the students should be working on for specific date ranges, and they can also view the individual answers each student gives along with their overall levels of mastery. Prodigy is played individually, although students can “battle” one another in the game to move on. Prodigy is completely free (which I still find mindblowing,) unless the student plays at home and wants to buy additional content (which has nothing to do with academics.) I sometimes even assign Prodigy as a homework choice board option! This option is great for centers because the students stay engaged, you get data, and you can have students practice current content, previous content, or even math facts. Win/win/win!
Station #4: Activity
The activity round of my stations changes every time. Most of the time it consists of an activity the students can do with a partner, but sometimes it’s individual. I usually have my students work on an activity that incorporates math facts or a previously learned skill so they don’t stop using it. However, if we’re working on a new, tricky concept (such as long division or double-digit multiplication, for fourth grade,) I will sometimes find a fun partner game to help them work on that skill. I introduce the activity to the students right before stations if we have never done it before in order to ensure they know how to play/complete it.
Some of my current favorites (mainly because they’re so engaging and low prep) are my division fact mazes and my decimal decoder!
That’s it! I love having such a consistent routine for stations because my kids know the expectations so well. They also know that stations are a privilege, and if they don’t follow the rules and expectations, we won’t have them again for awhile.
Have a question about how I run stations or any resources I may or may not have mentioned? Leave a comment!
I love hearing how other 4th grade math teachers run their stations. I’m always looking for new ideas, and you definitely gave me a few! Love the division sliders! I’m heading to your TpT store to purchase…just in time for test prep!
Thank you so much! I hope they help your kiddos as much as they help some of mine! Check out my Boot Camp stations too, they’re test prep based!
Is there a specific visual timer that you use?
I actually use a physical one now which I LOVE: https://amzn.to/2TI4Oi5
I know students learn more with stations. It cuts down on the overwhelmingness of a subject. I love to use stations when we work on essay revisions.
Absolutely! We practice Daily 5 2-3 times a week for ELA, but I’ve loved incorporating stations for math as well.
This is exactly how I did my math groups/stations and it was wonderful. The students loved it and were engaged the whole time. I was able to work with each student on a daily basis. Great post!
I love how you set up your stations! I can see the same format working well for a variety of subjects.
This looks fantastic! I’m not teaching math this year and I’m missing it.
This is awesome, I love doing math stations. I sometimes find it difficult to find station activities that work for my eighth-grade students. Fortunately I co-teach so we have two adults, one can handle crowd control while the other does a teacher-led station.
Thanks for the great ideas!
Love your ideas for stations! I can probably modify a couple of these for my second graders. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thank you for sharing this! I enjoy hearing how teachers use math stations also! One thing I’ve been wondering about is how often do you print out worksheets for your students to do at their seats (independent work or searwork as you may call it)? It’s a lot of work to print papers over and over especially if you’re teaching different skills throughout the week. Also, what do you do the 3 days you don’t do stations since you shared you only do stations twice a week?
We actually have workbooks, but I do print quite a bit. We do a lot of whole group work and review games.
Where did you find the template for your flow chart to leave on your smart board? I love it!
I made it! Just linked it to TPT.
Thank you so much!
I love how you project your groups do you have a program you used to set it up?
I just linked the one I made! I use Powerpoint.
How do you respond to parents that complain that you’re not available for help when they are doing seatwork (even when they received small group instruction just prior to doing their seatwork)?
I go over the directions ahead of time and also they can ask questions between rounds. If I notice there are major misunderstandings when I get the seatwork, I then work on it one-on-one with them. They still receive attention! They get the majority of the attention when they learn the concept beforehand.
When do you do your whole group Over that day’s lesson?
Love this post! Thank you!
Thank you! I typically do it the day before. I do a mini-lesson review for about 5-10 minutes beforehand as well.
Can you share the file from your PowerPoint?!
Just did! 🙂
Do you change your stations weekly? Or each time you do them?
Basically, are the students doing all 4 in one day, or 2 one day and the other 2 the next day
I change them each time! And yes, they do all 4 in one day. I give them 15 minutes for each round, so I make sure the seatwork isn’t too long. Just enough for me to assess what they know.
I love it, and have been working so hard to make this work in my classroom. My challenge has been that I have 34 students, so I either have to have more than 4 stations, have huge groups, or have 2 groups doing the same activity. Even at that, it has still been a challenge. A “small group” of 8-10 students isn’t that small. Any tips?? I would love to hear them. Thank you.
Oh wow! You could definitely add a fifth station which would probably be best. You could do large “small groups,” but obviously it’s not as beneficial. If I have a large group for some reason, I sit at the carpet instead of my table!