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November 3, 2016

Math Work Stations: Make-Its and Take-Its for Students

Written By: Jennifer Ayers
Originally Published On: Feb 28, 2012
Math Work Stations: Make-Its and Take-Its for Students -

Math Work Stations:  Make-Its and Take-Its for Students

RTI.  Grade Level Planning. Professional Development.  Faculty Book Study.  New Math Program.  De-cluttering.  Lesson Plans.  Bus Duty. Migraine yet?  Teachers could go on and on with the list of things that we all have to do to keep our classrooms ship-shape.  And work stations were not even mentioned.  Here is a simple, but effective, way to get ahead, and stay ahead, of the weekly or bi-weekly pressure of setting up math centers.

Math Work Station Set-Up Management

Use Volunteers

Utilize those volunteers to create individual make-it and take-it baggies for centers!  What?  You don’t have volunteers?  No problem!  Invite friends and family for a “packing party”.  Your friends and family love you; they will come if you offer to feed them!

In this day and time, most parents work and do not have the luxury of coming in to school to volunteer.  Consider asking for the names of parents who would be willing to cut materials, stuff bags, and make booklets.  I have done this over the years and have literally had parents beg for a job to do so that they can be involved with their child’s classroom and be able to discuss the curriculum with me.

Create Individual Bags

One of the easiest ways to store centers involving crafting (cut outs, material, recycled materials, etc.), manipulatives, or booklets is to have an individual bag for each student.  Fill them with whatever materials are needed and, once there is a classroom set, store them all in a gallon-sized bag that is labeled with the unit’s name, lesson title, month it will be used, or whatever is needed to keep things organized. Slip an index cards with a list of those everyday classroom items that cannot be packed prematurely such as glue, crayons, and scissors down into the bag as a memory refresher.  It may be a good idea to create a pre-made model to also slip into the bigger bag so that the students have a visual of what is expected.  Task cards or lists of directions are also great to have in the bag.  Using a graphic organizer or picture clues?  Store a master to print off for later.

What materials could be collected for these individual packets?   Here is a list of ideas for a packing party!


Packing Party Ideas

Place Value Manipulatives (Tens and Ones)

Circular-shaped cereal or beads and chenille stems can be used to create sets of tens.  Make sure there are some extra cereal or beads left for the once place!  This station can be extended many different ways:  use cards and match the manipulatives to the number, practice less than/greater than, ordering numbers from greatest to least, tally marks, etc.

Addition Counters

Shaped marshmallows, small plates, and individual flash cards that students can cut out themselves and use as concrete examples of the problems.  This could be changed to subtraction if eating is involved!  Small stampers on the ends of markers can be used to create a picture of the problems in order to move students from the concrete to the picture stage.  Do this center repeatedly, and students can move from the picture stage to the abstract stage as they begin to memorize the facts.

Fact Memorization

Small cards and a ring in order to copy down problems and make flash card flippers.  These are great to use when standing in line for water or the restroom.  Instruction time is never lost again!

Math Flip Books

Use two sheets of paper to create the book and label the pages with the words ‘problem’, ‘illustration’, ‘number sentence’, and ‘explanation’ for word problems.  Students will go across the curriculum and write about how they solved their problems!

Counters for Arrays

Cotton balls or marshmallows and skewers/toothpicks.


Card stock, 12-inch foldable ruler, a list of things in the class to measure, lengths of adding machine tape cut in certain lengths and secured with a paperclip, or string cut at certain lengths.


Just get dice and a graphing chart!  For differentiation, use different amounts of dice – one for lower levels of numeration, two dice for single digit addition, and three dice for triple digit addition!

Create a Word Problem

Cut out pictures from sales ads and have students pretend they are shopping with only a certain amount of money to use.  Play money can also be included!

Equal Shares

Smiley face ‘people’, small erasers, and word problems.


Different plane shapes are used to create a robot.  Students must count the number of triangles, squares, trapezoids, etc. that were used.  This can be extended with graphing. The shapes do not have to be perfectly cut for this either!  It just makes the robot all the more interesting!

Graphing Challenge

Pre-cut bar graph lengths for students to use with task cards.  Students must analyze the data, select the correct bar, and glue in on the correct place of the graph.


Assorted erasers can be used to create sets of items that illustrate given fractions.  This can be transferred on to paper through illustration.  Have your students create a book!  They can even trace the erasers!

What are some of your favorite math centers?  Share your ideas below!


Math Work Stations:  Make-Its and Take-Its for Students -

About the Author

Jennifer Harness Ayers, Ed.S. has been teaching for 17 years.  She has taught 1st, 2nd, and 4th grades and has worked as a reading interventionist in grades 1-5.  Jennifer loves developing activities and building on curriculum and has presented professional development at various locations in Tennessee.  However, she feels that her biggest accomplishment has been marrying her wonderful husband and becoming ‘mama’ to her daughter and son.

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  • Amanda Lawson
    May 11, 2012

    Super ideas on how to organize centers!!

  • Krista Lee
    April 26, 2012

    So many great ideas. Thank you for sharing, you can never have too many ideas for math centers that can be reused year after year!

  • Brian
    March 1, 2012

    Super ideas, Jennifer thanks so much for sharing your creative centers!

  • corinne
    February 28, 2012

    Love these, I’m always looking for math centers!

  • Penny Miller
    February 28, 2012

    Like the suggestions. However, we stay away from using food for a few reasons:
    1. Allergies
    2. Trying to open our students to the importance of food and how many countries do not have adequate food.
    3. Healthy food choices

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