Making Math Work Stations Work for YOU (and your students)!

Meeting with small groups for math instruction is so important for student success.  It can sound so easy to just give the rest of your class independent work to do while you are meeting with small groups but we all know this is much easier said than done.


The problem is that students who are not engaged or are struggling with independent practice will either: 

  • Do nothing,
  • Interrupt you with your small group, or
  • (the worst) Find something more “fun” to do unrelated to math, like talk to their friends, go to the restroom, doodle/draw, or whatever it takes to avoid the task that needs to be done!

This is a huge PROBLEM. Students not engaged in independent practice are distracting their classmates and your important small group time.  Having practice work that you know they can either complete independently, with a partner or is engaging will allow you to focus on your small groups and the supports or enrichment you can provide there.

NO (or at least minimal) INTERRUPTIONS

Having engaging Math Stations are the key to having uninterrupted time to meet with your small groups.

The MOST important thing to limit interruptions is to have expectations and procedures in place. If students don't know what to do, they need to know where to find that information. If students have a question about what to do, they need to know that they can ask a classmate in their group. If they need to go to the restroom? Have a non-verbal signal. Need a bandage? Make sure students have access, and know where they are. Having procedures AND allowing students to have access to the little things that they might need (bandages, paper, pencils, erasers, water, etc.) will help minimize any interruptions while you are teaching your small groups.


The solution is simpler than you think. You need to plan activities that you know that your students can complete without you (or at least with only peer support), that also have easy-to-understand directions, and are FUN. The most important thing though? Students need to KNOW what they are supposed to be doing!

Here are my top THREE tips to help students stay on task while you are working with your small groups.:

1. Engaging Activities: If students LIKE what they are assigned to do, they will be more engaged and less likely to be off task. I like to assign math games. I have a small library of game boards, dice games, and fact fluency games. I teach my students how to play in our small groups before assigning games independently. I keep a library of paper-based math task cards organized by standard and will assign a task card station for partners or small groups to work on. I use recording sheets that students must turn in for student accountability.

I also use technology as a workstation. I love Freckle, Reflex Math, and IXL for math practice. I also love using digital math activities in Google Slides and Google Forms. 

2. What to Do: Students need to KNOW what they should be doing! This may seem obvious but it is critical. I love having a digital display of my math station rotations that show students exactly what they should be working on. I also insert a timer so they know how long they should be working on a specific activity. My Digital Math Stations Rotation Chart shows the groups of students, the task they should be working on, and includes a time to show how much time they have in that rotation. I do a 15-minute lesson and do THREE 15 minute rotations for my hour-long math block.MY Math Stations Rotation slides in Google Slides let my students know what they should be doing and has become a well-loved routine in my classroom.         

3. Accountability - Students need to KNOW you will be checking their work and what should be accomplished in the time allotted. After my whole group lesson, I tell my students what they need to turn in after our math block (spoiler: it's one or more of the assignments they are doing while they are NOT meeting with me). If students know you will be grading their independent work, they will try to do their best.

I LOVE teaching math and my students LOVE learning math. I know that having routines, procedures, and expectations in place makes our Math Work Stations effective and allow me to spend valuable time reteaching or enriching my students who need it.

Subscribe to my email list to grab a copy of my FREE Digital Math Work Stations Rotation Chart, Just click HERE or on the image below!

I LOVE using workstations in my classroom and my students love it too. It gives me the opportunity to meet the needs of my students in small groups and allows my students to have fun practicing math in a variety of ways.

Want to learn more about how I teach math?  Read about how I teach multiplying fractions HERE.

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