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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.