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Math Center Tubs- a different take on small group instruction during math time

Math Center Tubs- Small Instruction for Math Time

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We have FINALLY started our “real” math center tubs this week. My second graders are off to a great start, so I thought I’d share a little bit more about how I tackle small group instruction during our 90 minute math block.


Math Center Tubs- a different take on small group instruction during math time



First up,

Setting Up Math Center Tubs

math center tubs- label math buckets so students can keep track of which bucket they've completed.


To get started, I labeled 6 clear 15 L plastic tubs. I like the ones with lids so I can stack them.

 clear plastic 15 L storage containers are perfect for math center tubs
(Like this set of four!)




Each bucket is labeled with letters A-F.

math tub center bin labels

You can grab the labels and contracts I used by clicking here.

Then each Monday, I set up my math tubs with games and activities that reinforce the math concept we are working on for the week. I focus on hands on learning with these tubs. Lots of manipulatives, games, and group work. Students need to be engaged in learning and just another worksheet won’t do the trick!


 How Math Tubs Work


After the whole group lesson and independent practice time on Mondays, I introduce each tub activity and review (and review again) how to complete the activity. We also review how clean up the math tub when we are done with the activity.  Each student also gets a math tub contract (also included in my Center Time! Kit) to help them keep track of what centers they have completed so far that week.


math center tubs contract- perfect way to keep kids accountable for their completed math centers


Since many of the math tubs have math based games, I also take the time to discuss what constitutes as a completed tub activity.


Most students are expected to complete 5 of the 6 math tubs each week (one per day). Some students have to complete all 6, while others only have to complete 3-4, and even some may only have 1-2 specific tubs to work from.  This is why I <3 math center tubs! They are so easy to differentiate for my students needs week to week or even day to day!
To make sure there isn’t absolute chaos on one tub, there is set limit of 4 students working from one tub at a time. This eliminates most foreseeable behavior issues related to too many students at a center. It also ensures that students will work on other tub activities throughout the week.


Now, here’s the AWESOME part of math tubs! For the rest of the week, as soon as students are finished with their independent practice for the day’s math lesson, they turn in their work and grab a tub and get to work. I don’t have to dictate their tubs, students don’t have to wait for the entire class to finish their practice before beginning their center time. It works great for those students who are fast finishers, but allows me to spend time with students who need a refresher or some one-on-one time.




What’s in the Math Center Tubs?

math center tub activities


Everything and anything that is math related is fair game for math tubs! This week, our tubs are full of activities to help strengthen our basic fact fluency.  I have some math activities from my Just the {Basic} Facts unit. We’re also practicing/learning with wipe off sheets like (these on Amazon)

fact family math center


These sheets are great for center activities! They turn literally ANY paper activity into a reusable center sheet! Just print off enough sheets for students to use in the group and slide into the pocket. Wipe off markers and mini erasers complete the center!


I’m a HUGE fan of hands on math games for centers! Games keep students engaged and learning. You can read more about some MUST play math games here.  Flash cards are another great addition to our math buckets. Students like to challenge each other to see who can get the most cards! Sometimes, we’ll have a bucket with math related books! This is a great way to integrate reading into your math block.


math reading during math centers


Collaborative activities are a HUGE hit in our math tubs as well. Students love being able to work together to complete activities. It also adds to our classroom community!  Here are a few of the packs I like to pull activities from:

15 math center resources perfect for 2nd grade


What’s the Teacher Doin’ During Math Centers?


With math tubs being self- selected and self -guided, the structure gives me LOTS of time for re-teaching lessons and working in small groups at my back table without having to worry about what my kids are “up to” when they’re done.  It also gives me the freedom to pull students for challenge groups during my math time without worrying if my lower kiddos are struggling. Win-Win for this teacher.


This week, I am tub F. Students come to see me for a spot check on their basic fact fluency and any other little things they need get done. It’s nice because when I’m a tub, students make sure they come to see me so they can cross off that tub from their contract. I also get to make sure I’m seeing everyone within the week and adjusting accordingly.

Math Center Tubs- small group instruction for math time. Great alternative to a rigid grouping schedule. This post outlines how this second grade teacher sets up her bins, how she organizes her students. This could save my math small group instruction!


Well that’s my math tubs in a nut shell! If you have any questions about this routine, or like to share how you reach your cuties during math small group, be sure to comment below!

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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