Monday, March 9, 2015

Math Menu: An Alternative to Math Centers

Have you ever considered using a math menu? I was at my wit's end with math centers when I saw our gifted specialist use a choice menu for a social studies unit and thought, "Could I do that for math?!"  While math centers have value for students, I was struggling to maintain them…making the activities and materials, switching them out, etc. I knew there must be an easier and more efficient way for me that would also meet the needs of my students. That's when I decided to create a math menu and give it a try! 

Our Math Menu is printed on poster paper and is posted in our classroom.

When designing our Math Menu, I wanted the menu to be general enough that it could be used with any math unit so that I wouldn’t need to create or prep too many new tasks. I also wanted to make sure I held students accountable for their work and that they had some kind of product to show for their time spent during Math Menu. The final characteristic I wanted was to make sure there was a mix of open-ended and closed tasks so that no one would quickly do all of the choices and be left with nothing else to do.

After the students have learned all of the objectives for a unit, we will usually do Math Menu for about five to seven days before a test. While students are participating in Math Menu, I pull small groups by objective based on formative assessments. I LOVE the structure of a menu vs centers because of flexible grouping…I can pull groups whenever I want, for however long I want because I am no longer tied to the rotation of a center schedule. Students may also be in more than one group. For instance, if Michael needs support with adding coins and measuring length, he will see me with the adding coins group and again for the measuring length group. The part I have to be careful about is making sure I’ve seen every student so that no one is left out or left doing Math Menu for too long. 

At this point, I have been using Math Menu for about a year with both my students from last year and my current class. Basically when it's time for Math Menu, I'll say to my students in Oprah-style, "It's time for Maaaaaaaattttthhhhhhhhh Meeeennnnuuuuuu!" and they'll say, "YAYYYY!" Then I tell them something like, "I need to see the following students at the carpet for adding double digits...and everyone else may go to their choice for Math Menu and gather what they need." I will work with a small group from anywhere to 5 to 15 minutes depending on how they are doing. Sometimes a few students in the group catch on quickly so I'll send them back to Math Menu and keep working with those who need more intervention. When I'm done working with a group, I'll call for the class' attention (we use "Give me 5") and give the names of the next group of students I want to see. I will also periodically get up to see what everyone is working on around the room too. At the close of Math Menu, everyone helps clean up and I check the Check-in Table (see below). 

Along the way I have added some features to make Math Menu successful for my students and I:

Signs help keep us organized and give the students a reference for what to do. 

Check-in Table
Students shade in the amount of money their choice costs. This gives me a quick glimpse at who is accomplishing their work. This table was printed on poster paper, laminated, and is posted on an easy-to-reach cabinet in our classroom.

Checklist, Templates, and Pre-Cut Game Cards for Invent a Game
All of these items help the students prioritize and make the best use of their time when they are making a game. I found game templates for free for Monopoly, Candyland, etc. HERE and had a parent volunteer make blank cards and bag them. 

If you are interested in my Math Menu and management pieces, check it out in my TpT Store! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks so much! Have a Happy Day! :)

Site Design By Designer Blogs