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Math Bins 101 :)
23 Oct, 2013. 8 Comments. A Day In First Grade, Autumn, First Grade, First Grade Math, Kindergarten Math, Math, October. Posted By: Kristen Smith

Math bins seriously has to be one of my favorite parts of our day in first grade. I had a few people ask me how I manage my math bin time and how I keep my students engaged during it and I hope this post will help some of you think through your math bin/tub time! Before you read this post please know that this week is “spirit week” at my school so my students are rocking their school spirit in hats and PJS in these pictures. :) {and they still are focused and engaged during our math bin time!!– score!!}

I will say this, my first year of attempting math bins, it was hit or miss. Some days was awesome and other days… well, I did more explaining directions and redirecting then the kids sometimes did math. {I hope I’m not the only one who experienced that!}

This is now my third year using math bins in first grade and I have a system in place that my students love and that really works for me.

I have a small class; however, I do not think that my success is solely contingent upon that factor. Some tricks that have worked for me are:

*I use similar activities often
*I only let two students work together
*I spread my students out all over the classroom
*We practice most of our games together before they become an activity that they do independently

Let me break down some of those “tricks” into more specific explanations.

Similar Activities 
In the beginning of the year I painfully slowly model, model, model how to use the different areas of our classroom and our classroom tools. My students become very familiar with how to work together and how to use a pocket chart or any of the tools that we will use throughout the year. We practice how to use pocket charts, dice, cards and counters.  This definitely helps us during math bins. I do not have to remind my students HOW to roll their dice quietly or how to focus on their task. They have already built up their stamina and know how to problem solve. {This takes MUCH practice the first few weeks of school.}

We often play games where my students are sorting cards, matching cards, or ordering cards. They are very good at these types of games. I change the activities nearly weekly, yet the way my students play the games remains the same. They like to play games that are familiar to them however practice different skills or have different themes. They love when the clip art changes or when they have a new “problem to solve.”

Small Groups
I have tried all different numbers of students in groups. However, two can consistently work well together. Once you add in one more “friend,” issues just “happen.” For me, I would rather have a student work alone and practice a skill independently than have a group of three.

Use Your Space 
I do not have a large classroom. However, I have managed to make it work! I have three different carpets in my classroom plus multiple pocket charts (which I stapled to the wall.) This allows me to have one group on each rug, a different group at each pocket chart, groups at the computers, a group with me and other groups at our tables. Spreading us out keeps the noise down and the distractions down! My first teaching job ever was at a Montessori school and one thing that I have carried with me throughout the years was that students need a work space. In the Montessori setting, students take out carpets when they are working. They learn how to roll and unroll carpets and how to use their workspace appropriately. I love that this taught students organization and it also claimed an area just for them. I use this daily in my classroom and I think it really helps my students learn organization.

Introducing New Games 
Who doesn’t love a good game? I use games ALL the time in my instruction. I try to have all my students play a game with me or as a whole group before it becomes a center. This is especially true when new types of games are introduced.

For example, while we know how to use small dice, when I introduced this large-dice make 10 game, we played it as a whole group first, then we played it in small groups and then I let my students play this game independently. This ensures that my students know how to play the games.

After playing the game with me, they were able to play the game without help! 

I also quickly explain the games before I let me students go to their math bin. I might say something like “Allie and John, y’all are going to play Hoot today. Remember, you are going to take turns rolling the die and covering the double with your counters.” This quick sentence jogs their memory as to how to play the game and hardly takes any time at all.

Time:
In my class my students only get to one math bin daily and our math bins usually only run for about 20 minutes. I have found that this is the perfect amount of time for my students to play a game and fill out their recording sheets. At first I tried to have my math bin time last longer and that only ended with me having to redirect often after the 23rd minute came about. If I had more time, I would love to get two rotations in daily but I just don’t have the time!

Groups:
You might think I am crazy for this next part but I actually don’t keep a “rotation” for my math bins. Sometimes I will choose the groups and other times I will let my students choose either their partner OR their math bin. If I know that someone really needs to practice a skill, I will assign them a bin but let them pick their partner. NOTE: This happens only after my students have learned that we are friends with EVERYONE and that they need to be happy with whoever they are partners with. I spend a LOT of time building a community in my classroom and I switch partners DAILY. Since I have a small class, this means that they get to work with everyone often. I do not mind if they choose their partners. Sometimes I will say something like, “Matthew, today please pick a girl to work with.” However, I am lucky that I have never had a problem with this. {I DO assign the pairs for my Literacy centers.}

(not a math bin picture, but as you can see, we REALLY do get along and enjoy being partners with each other!) 

My students genuinely LOVE Math bin time. When I tell you they applaud, they seriously do! They love the new games, they love practicing their skills, and they love working around the classroom.

I love that they are independently working together on skills and that I get to meet with a group every single day on specific math skills. I do not worry about all my students getting to each math bin every week or even if they have completed a math bin twice. Sometimes I will assign someone to a math bin and they will pick a friend who has already been there and that is okay!  To me, every time a student plays a game they are refining a skill and getting better at a concept. If they play a game twice, they are just working towards mastery.

I hope that this helped a little bit!

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PS-These math activities are from my “All about Owls” pack and also my “Spooktacular Literacy and Math bins!” You can get them by clicking on the titles!

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8 Comments
  1. I just moved to first grade this year after teaching second for many years! I found your blog earlier this year and absolutely love it! You are so creative and inspire me! I want to be a kid in your class. How many kids do you have? Thanks for explaining how you do math bins. I agree with you about the more than 2. Have a great Wednesday!!

    Christa
    sweetlifeofsecondgrade

  2. Thanks for sharing. I have been wanting to start some type of math center and this seems like something that is doable in my classroom. I do think I may have to group some kids, we have issues in the past picking their own partners. I really appreciate all of the tips! :)
    Kelly
    I’m Not Your Grandpa, I’m Your Teacher

  3. You must have read my mind! In the middle of my math stations today, I was thinking “There has to be a better way to do this!” Thank you so much for sharing I’m gonna print this out and start to make some changes!
    Erika
    Teach Train Triumph!

  4. Jack -

    I have a class of 26 so that’s a lot of sets to make! Any suggestions? I have your october bin set would love to set them up ASAP :)

  5. It’s like you are in my classroom! I always introduce games in a whole group or small group setting until they are able to do it independently. :) I always love reading your posts and love your pictures you use! I just restarted my blog (the other one had too much of a time lapse) so please come visit!

    Elyse
    confessiosfromafirstgradeteacher.blogspot.com

  6. I am so happy to have found your blog and am anxious to keep reading to find more gems! I got a kick out of seeing that we are using the same counters – Frankenstein erasers from the Target Dollar Spot and what I tell the children are ‘beautiful jewel’ pumpkins from Michaels! I am using the erasers in a game I made up called “Spooky Ten Frame’ which also uses a skeleton ice cube tray and the fancy pumpkins are used in another game called “Mystery Box.’ I love that the Kinders get so excited by just changing out materials – it’s like a whole new game! Happy Sunday – be well.

  7. I have read about your guided math block and saw on one of your blogs that the students rotate every 10 minutes and on this blog you mention that they rotate on a 20 minute time frame. I am trying to fine tune my math block and wanted to know which time frame do you use for your rotation amount.

    Sherry

    • Sherry, at the beginning of the year we tend to meet for 10-15 minutes. We currently have built up enough stamina for about 15-20 minute groups. It also depends on the needs of your students. I hope that helps! :)

8 Comments

  • I just moved to first grade this year after teaching second for many years! I found your blog earlier this year and absolutely love it! You are so creative and inspire me! I want to be a kid in your class. How many kids do you have? Thanks for explaining how you do math bins. I agree with you about the more than 2. Have a great Wednesday!!

    Christa
    sweetlifeofsecondgrade

  • Thanks for sharing. I have been wanting to start some type of math center and this seems like something that is doable in my classroom. I do think I may have to group some kids, we have issues in the past picking their own partners. I really appreciate all of the tips! :)
    Kelly
    I’m Not Your Grandpa, I’m Your Teacher

  • You must have read my mind! In the middle of my math stations today, I was thinking “There has to be a better way to do this!” Thank you so much for sharing I’m gonna print this out and start to make some changes!
    Erika
    Teach Train Triumph!

  • Jack -

    I have a class of 26 so that’s a lot of sets to make! Any suggestions? I have your october bin set would love to set them up ASAP :)

  • It’s like you are in my classroom! I always introduce games in a whole group or small group setting until they are able to do it independently. :) I always love reading your posts and love your pictures you use! I just restarted my blog (the other one had too much of a time lapse) so please come visit!

    Elyse
    confessiosfromafirstgradeteacher.blogspot.com

  • I am so happy to have found your blog and am anxious to keep reading to find more gems! I got a kick out of seeing that we are using the same counters – Frankenstein erasers from the Target Dollar Spot and what I tell the children are ‘beautiful jewel’ pumpkins from Michaels! I am using the erasers in a game I made up called “Spooky Ten Frame’ which also uses a skeleton ice cube tray and the fancy pumpkins are used in another game called “Mystery Box.’ I love that the Kinders get so excited by just changing out materials – it’s like a whole new game! Happy Sunday – be well.

  • I have read about your guided math block and saw on one of your blogs that the students rotate every 10 minutes and on this blog you mention that they rotate on a 20 minute time frame. I am trying to fine tune my math block and wanted to know which time frame do you use for your rotation amount.

    Sherry

    • Sherry, at the beginning of the year we tend to meet for 10-15 minutes. We currently have built up enough stamina for about 15-20 minute groups. It also depends on the needs of your students. I hope that helps! :)

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