Math Centers: Set Up Tips and a Freebie!

I've always been a huge fan of math centers.  The wonderful Kristen at Easy Teaching Tools has put together a 3 part series to share math centers ideas. What fun!

Today I will be sharing how I set up my centers and math materials.  I find "better ways" all the time and I am always switching it up trying to improve my system but these are a few things that are must haves in my classroom!

A spot for everything!

A few years ago I nabbed this book shelf out of a hallway and turned it into my math manipulatives shelf.  Having all of my math in one area helps so much!  I don't have to walk all over my room looking for things, it's all in one place!
This is a very messy picture of this area, because I snapped it at the end of last year when I was blogging about something else but you get the idea.  The clear shoe boxes are excellent for holding manipulatives and they stack neatly on the shelves because they have lids.  They are cheap too!  Usually about $1 a box (I got mine at Walmart).  

I always split my manipulatives into 4 different boxes so I can spread them out throughout the room.  I have 4 tables that my kiddos sit at so if I want them to all have hands on materials I can provide them with them easily and quickly if needed.  Also if I want to use them in centers they are all set to go.  

Center Set Up

Each week I put out 3 or 4 math centers.  They are stored all week on this shelf at the front of our room.  The top shelf holds our morning word work activities, and the bottom are math centers.  I mix it up as far as what types of centers I use.  Sometimes they are individual activities and sometimes they work in small groups or play a partner game.  
My kiddos know they need to use a recording sheet and the materials they need are always stored in the bin along with the paper they need. 
This center only required dice but sometimes they need a whole box of materials or a bag of cards.  I put them all together here so they can grab and go and get straight to work. 

Getting started!  
Training those kiddos!

This is the most important part!  (I probably should have made it number 1!)  The first few weeks of school we learn the routine of math centers. We set up expectations and talk about what we can and can not do during math center time.  These are the expectations we set up this year.  Each one of these is discussed daily the first few weeks and then review them whenever needed. 
I try to make them all positive... well, I try!  Instead of saying, don't horse around (which is what I really want to say), we say "work the whole time".  If you ever have a group horsing around all you have to do is refer back to that expectation and ask, "Are you working the whole time?"  
My favorite is QQC....all I have to do is ring the bell and say QQC and my kiddos jump to it, clean up, and return to their seats.  Awesome!
I posted this to my Google docs and shared it here if you would like a copy.  It's not editable, but if it works for you it's free! :) 

So here are a few kiddos in action!
We work all over the room so math is a hub bub of activity!  
I love it!

So those are a few ideas that help me keep organized and run my math centers.  I'm excited to participate in this linky and see what other tips you all have and comments are always welcome if you have any questions for me. Also, I just finished my newest math centers unit last weekend and I will posting about it soon.  If you would like to see it in my store click on the pic!

Thank you for stopping by and as always have fun teaching!