Math, Teaching and Instruction

Creating a Math Rich Classroom

Recently I have had the pleasure of connecting with teachers who are new to teaching math and looking for suggestions on setting up their classroom to support Mathematics.  Our conversations led us to thinking about what was really the goal of creating a space in the classroom for mathematics.   After some discussion we decided that we wanted an environment that fosters student mathematical thinking, working, collaborating and independence.  A tall order I know but something that I believe is attainable with the right materials, supports and organization.    Their questions have led me to reflect on my own classroom set up in the past and how I would set it up today.  Here is what I would need in my classroom to support mathematics and lay the foundation for a math rich environment:

  • Math Area/Corner–  Just like how every classroom needs to have a class library to foster student literacy I believe that every classroom needs to have a math area to foster mathematical literacy.  This area, be it a shelf, bookcase, an area on the floor, can house the “tools” students will need to access during Mathematician’s Workshop.  These tools would include manipulatives (both purchased and natural items), containers to store them in and graphic organizers that students might need (10-frames, 100 Chart, Base Ten Chart, blank Venn Diagrams…).  I also like having several small baskets in this area which I call math tool boxes.  These baskets can house all materials which students will need for the day and save time in the distribution of manipulatives in the classroom.  As an added bonus I find the use of “Tool Boxes”   helps foster student independence during cleanup and makes it easier for them to keep their manipulatives contained while they are working.
This is an easy way to distribute manipulatives during class and student independence. Books both fiction and non fiction that discuss mathematical ideas and allow students to see mathematics in the world.A basket of Math Books
  • Math Books-  These would be a basket or several baskets of literature, both fiction and nonfiction, which has a mathematical slant or theme.  The goal with allowing students to access mathematical literature is to allow them to extend and expand their mathematical thinking, foster connections and allow them to see mathematics in a variety of situations.  For some ideas about possible math books to include check out my post on My Favorite Math Books
A basket of Math Books
  • Math Wall– This wall would contain mathematical words, definitions, sentence frames, representations anything to foster understanding of mathematical vocabulary and student independence.  I would also include on the wall co-constructed anchor charts about math concepts students are currently working on, photos of math in the world, student work and norms for mathematician’s workshop.  For more information on Math Walls check out my post Why Math Walls?
Words, anchor charts, sentence frames, examples...everything students need can be placed on the wall.

If we truly value math in our classrooms then math has to have a place in our rooms as well.  In so doing students will see its importance, be able to access supports, and explore the mathematical concepts.  By having a place for math language, math tools and math literature and by supporting students use of them we can start to create a math rich classroom.

5 thoughts on “Creating a Math Rich Classroom”

  1. Another bonus to a Math Area is that it allows learners to be self-directed. They can select which resources they think they’ll need to be successful and teachers can use this as an assessment to offer a supportive think-aloud later when learners struggle to make appropriate choices. Too often I used to tell learners what tool to use and then be mystified when they could not make decisions for themselves. Now I make all the tools I can available; it makes things much more interesting.

  2. @matt_skoss David Coffey makes are a vital statement vis-a-vis allowing learners to be self-directed. It is a huge shift for kids to choose what they might use to solve a problem. Viewing the classroom as an ‘archaeological dig’ (where is the evidence of the mathematical activity) needs learning prompts to help focus kids’ attention. Metaphors such as a ‘mathematical toolbox’ help as prompts and reflective practices. Examples at: http:// Thanks to @jessica_dubois for her twitter comment about your excellent blog.

  3. Hello Mrs. Brokofsky,

    I am a pre-service teacher studying at the University of South Alabama. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your ideas of how to create a math rich classroom and look forward to utilizing these same techniques in my own one day. Math is by far one of the most important subject areas taught in school, an idea not shared by many students. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges teachers face is attaining enthusiasm and excitement from students when introducing mathematical concepts. A key in gaining this attention from students is to enhance their natural curiosity and relate their disposition to mathematics to make sense of their physical and even social worlds. The organizational ideas you have posed is an excellent way to do this. Having a classroom arranged in such a fashion you described also appeals to every individual’s need to have a variety of methods to learn. Furthermore, I particularly appreciated the incorporation of art and literature into the math stations. To have an understanding of how these mathematical concepts can be applied to other areas of study only solidifies the material for students.

  4. I enjoyed reading about your ideas for creating a math rich classroom. It is extremely important to have different activities involving math that students can become interested in. So many children do not like learning math, but it is truly one of the most important subjects that we learn. Therefore, it is always great to learn about great ideas to encourage the children while learning mathematics.

  5. Thank you. I concur that once students can make learning their own something they discover they understand they will never lose it, as the path taken to unveil the knowledge will remain.

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