One of the most challenging parts of implementing math stations is organization. In this blog post, I share four hacks for organizing math stations that have saved me time and my sanity over the years.
Being too organized almost ruined my marriage . . . well, almost prevented it from ever happening.
That’s a true story.
Before my husband and I got married, we took a pre-marriage class through my church.
During the final weeks of the program, the husband and wife who led the group asked to share a meal with each couple in their homes.
At the time, my husband and I had a semi-long distance relationship– if you call 80 miles long distance. But, it feels that way when you’re in love, right?
We arranged for the leaders to meet with us at my house. Before they arrived, I spent hours cleaning and preparing a semi-homemade meal– fajitas with all the fixings and QUESO!
I was so proud and I wanted my fiance to be proud of the home that would become our home in a few short months.
After the leaders arrived and we exchanged pleasantries, the grilling started.
Questions, Questions, and More Questions
They asked all kinds of questions. 😟
I could tell my fiance was uncomfortable because they asked a lot of personal questions. I felt bad for him, but I was glad they were not grilling me . . . yet.
When the conversation turned to me, they went for the jugular.
The man looked at me and asked how I thought my husband and I would merge our lives together.
He then scanned the living room and kitchen and said, “Because this place is over the top.” 😲
I was devastated. I’m a neat person and I think organization and decorum are important.
I spent time creating a nice and inviting home and he blasted me for it. Wow!
Needless to say, I was done with dinner. 😔
Organization is Essential
We all know math stations have a lot of moving parts. It can be time-consuming to manage all of the materials. In fact, I often hear from teachers what holds them back from doing math stations in the classroom is the organization piece.
But, as an “over the top” person who thrives on organization, if I was not able to create a system for managing my math station materials– math stations weren’t going to happen in my classroom. They just weren’t.
Tips for Organizing Your Math Stations
It may seem like a daunting task, but if you invest the time upfront for organizing your math stations, it will save you hours of time, and unnecessary stress, later.
Here are a few helpful tips for organizing your math stations:
Baskets and Bins
As a rule, I use the same station types each week, such as math facts, games, problem-solving, tech tools, teacher time, seat work, etc. I then assign each task a specific colored basket. Every week, I place the materials for the station in the same colored basket. I then leave the station baskets in the same location so I (and the students) can easily locate them.
Check out my favorite colored baskets here!
“Over the Top” Bonus Tip: If your baskets are the same color, label them with colored labels. You can also use fun scrapbook paper to help distinguish them!
Games and Activities
Over the years, I found the best way to organize station games and activities is in labeled plastic bags that include all of the necessary materials. I tend to use a lot of file folder games that require materials, such as playing cards, answer keys, and instruction guides. Placing all the materials in labeled plastic bags makes them easy to store and then retrieve later to place in the math station baskets.
Even though it’s a tighter fit, file folders fit inside of gallon-size plastic bags. Adding a label to the front of the bag makes it easier to identify when you sort through materials to include in your math station baskets.
“Over the Top” Bonus Tip: I prefer a looser fit, so I used “School Bags” to store my materials. They were a bit more expensive, but they were heavier than your basic plastic bag and lasted longer. This product is no longer available, but book bags, like the ones our primary friends use are the same size and have the same level of thickness.
Students often need math manipulatives and other tools to complete math station activities, such as pattern blocks, Base 10 blocks, protractors, rulers, color tiles, counters, etc. For this reason, I store my math manipulatives in labeled tubs so I can easily grab them when needed for a station activity.
There are lots of great options for plastic storage containers. The shoebox-size was the best fit. They are inexpensive and easy to find at local dollar stores.
“Over the Top” Bonus Tip: For the manipulatives students use most, I separate the materials into individual plastic bags, so I can grab four or five to throw in the math station basket. They are then available for individual use during the activity.
Many of the games and activities I like to include in my math station tubs require materials, such as decks of playing cards, pawns, coins, dice, and Tic-Tac-Toe-style game materials, like counters and beans. Many of these materials are easy to lose, so including them in the game bags was problematic. In addition, because of the number of game bags I had, I would need a lot of game materials to fill the game bags.
The best solution I found is a game box. I store all of the materials in small school boxes students can quickly grab and then get to work. They also help during whole group instruction. If we’re going to play a game or use the materials, I send a designated member of each table group to grab a game box off the shelf and we’re ready to start.
“Over the Top” Bonus Tip: I like to use these tiny boxes for the Tic-Tac-Toe counters, colored chips, centimeter cubes, and beans. This way, I can store them separately from the other materials and students can grab them for Cover Up, Connect 4, and Connect 5 games.
While merging your life with another person is never easy, we make it work. I’m sure there are days when my husband thinks I am a bit “over the top,” but I also know he appreciates being able to find things when he needs them. 😊
That’s the key to making math stations work for you . . . organization. The hacks for organizing math stations shared above helped me stay organized and saved me a ton of prep time, allowing me to focus on what games and activities I needed to fill the baskets with each week.
I promise you will feel much more in control when you devote time to organize your materials. Grab my math station game labels using the form below to organize your math games and activities. They are perfect for your math station game bags!
Note: The labels are formatted for Microsoft Word and can be printed on Avery (8164)-style shipping labels. After printing, write the name of the game or activity in the center space.
How do you keep your math station materials organized? Respond in the comments below.