Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

Math Work Stations

Doing Math Practice Every Day

Last summer I decided to strengthen my Kindergarten math program by moving from math tubs to math work stations. To prepare I read Debbie Diller's book Math Work Stations. In her book she provides a simple framework for delivering daily math practice of concepts previously taught in a primary classroom. She provides examples of different ways to organize your students, your resources as well as several activities for the math stations. At the same time, I joined an online book discussion with other Kindergarten teachers where we discussed each chapter of the book, analyzed the information and then wrote about what math stations would like in our own rooms. 

As I read the book, I went through my classroom resources (yes we work during July and August) and reorganized them into math tubs, created emergent graphic organizers and planned how to integrate daily practice into the kindergarten day. It has been such a success! My internet colleagues and I continued to gather resources, often creating and sharing them with each other. As I observed my students and completed my June math assessment I was impressed by their knowledge, competence and enthusiasm for math. These tubs are so popular with the Kinders that quite a few have been completed many times during our morning play/work time as a choice activity.

Here are a few tips that worked for me:

Be organized. I chose to use a pocket chart but you could just as easily use names on magnets. I assigned each tub a number and put the same number in the pocket chart. I planned some of the math stations before school started using a combination of store bought, home made and sourced from the many kindergarten blogs. Then as the year progressed I continued to add new activities that I knew this year's group would enjoy. For example the Kinders as a whole were very collaborative, so I added a magnetic shape block building kit to a tub. While there were enough blocks to each build their own structures, almost all partners chose to build together.

Use Partners. I chose to assign mature Kinders with younger Kinders taking into consideration their math knowledge and skills. For management I also did mostly boy/girl. I did not assign permanent partners until I knew them and had a pretty good idea of who worked well together.

Include rotation of stations as part of a routine. We moved the station numbers in the pocket chart each day at Calendar time.

Make it play based. The stations were an opportunity to practice concepts already modelled and experienced successfully as a group and small group. Some of the stations were game based and often allowed them to make their own rules, were collaborative and included variety. If the students were not motivated I changed it.

Differentiate the challenges- I wanted to meet all of my Kinders learning needs. By offering choices at most of the stations they would practice at a level that was meaningful for them. For example, at the roll and colour work station, there were double dice or single dice. Students could roll a single dice and colour a single digit number or choose the double dice and colour a double digit number by adding the numbers together.

Self-regulation. I wanted my Kinders to strengthen both their social and cognitive self regulation. This meant that they needed high expectations, choice, challenges, independent tasks, being able to solve problems without the teacher and knowing their jobs. Self regulation is one of the top goals for full day kindergarten and is woven through the whole day. This means that I am always looking for opportunities to nurture growth in this important area.

Scaffold their learning. I supported them by being available during the first few weeks, teaching some of the stations as whole group and then small group before putting it into a station. A simple example of problem solving is that I have extra dice and game pieces easily accessed by students. Then if a dice is missing they know where to find a new one. An example of choice is the Goldilock rule. 

Many of the stations have two or three choices. The Kinders always chose challenges that were not too hard or too easy.

Make it a routine - by establishing a simple routine for getting and returning the math stations the Kinders easily transitioned from math circle to math stations. If our math circle was longer then they went to music and did math stations when they returned. They knew that they would do math stations every morning. For example, partner A would get the tub and partner B would chose the workspace. If a partner was away then the single student could choose to work alone or join a pair.

Use optimal time frames- Keeping the purpose in mind practice I  only asked them to complete one math station activity and allocated ten minutes. Research shows that a block of ten to twelve minues is ideal for independent practice. This math break allows the teacher to do guided math with a small group and keep the other kinders focused and doing meaningful work.

Use on-going assessment-I always use assessment to make decisions and math stations was no exemption. I continuously made adjustments as my Kinders needs changed.

Most of the assessment tools that I use in math are reflective because I want my Kinders to know their strengths and set goals. An example is when a student built a model, then drew it and then took a digital photo to add to her math e-portfolio because it was her best work in shapes.

Some of the assessment tools used math e-portfolios, digital photos, focused observations and conferencing. If I needed to do a check in with student I could do so during my guided math groups, join the partners during math stations or just observe. This year I will be adding audio to my assessment tool box. Having an audio recorder at the station will enable me to listen to student talk later in the day when I am reviewing my assessment.

 Sample math work stations:

Here is a photo of my pocket chart (I love pocket charts). You can see that the partners are boy/girl, the station numbers are easy to read and names are large simple print. I hung the pocket chart beside my main teaching area, close to the tubs.

These are the magnetic shape blocks which could either be following a plan or design your own. 

The second picture is a collaboration between two students; Jake and Dulcie.

I totally copied this activity from my colleague Kelly Inglis, (acutally I think she made it for me) the students have two choices numbers one to five or six to ten. They build cube towers for each number.


This was a fun activity. I began with sequencing numbers or matching number cards to dots or matching number words to dots. It's easy to create images for different seasons like turkeys, scarecrows, fish....

I have accumulated a wide range of puzzles. I would put a puzzle box in the tub but if they wanted a bigger challenge then they could select from the puzzle shelf in the classroom and later the storage room.

This is an example of a store bought game,  
Skippy for which they often made their own rules.

 This was a delicious activity that I purchased from tpt. They scoop mini marshmallows into the bowl, count using tallies and they write the number. Finally they can eat them.

Here are the math
tubs right beside
my teaching area.


I hope that you enjoyed a view of daily math practice in my Kindergarten classroom.



  1. I love the Debbie Diller Math Stations book! I am preparing to really update my math stations this year....this was a weak spot for me this past school year. Thanks for sharing your activities!

    The Daily Cupcake…A Kindergarten Blog

  2. Hi Mrs. M

    The math work stations are an excellent opportunity for daily practice. Your kinders will appreciate the opportunity. It's also great to have those extra minutes to work with a small group. Have fun with it.

    Liz :)

  3. Thank you for the math station tips! I would like to start some math workstations this year & am figuring out how to organize it so I can use all of the help that I can get!
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  4. Hi Lisa,

    If you can borrow or purchase I highly recommend Debbie Dillers book, Math Work Stations. It really saves you from reinventing the wheel.

    Liz :)

  5. This is a great post! Thank you for all the tips!

  6. Hi Jennifer,

    You're welcome. Hope that they are useful.

    Liz :)

  7. That's an area I really need to improve on-thanks for all the great tips! I actually got to see Debbie this summer talk about her new book-love her!! :) Glad to have discovered your blog-looks like a lot of great resources!


  8. Thank you. I love to write and learn about working with children.

    But your news is exciting. Wow, how did that happen! Lucky you, Wouldn't it be great to have Debbie come to you school and help with designing space! I've have done a few classrrooms for colleagues and always ask an honest friend to help with my space each September when my numbers change.

    Liz :)

  9. WOW. These are great ideas and the kids will surely love this. Thanks for sharing! It will be helpful for all. Kindergarten math will be so much fun. Learning math can't be boring again.

  10. Thank you Jane. I really believe that there is no reason for math to be boring, especially in primary classroms.

    Liz :)


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