Math Centers: 1 to 5 & Sorting Review

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Students will be able to independently identify and write numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 within this sorting review.

Big Idea

In order to pull small groups during math instruction, the rest of the students need engaging activities that they can complete independently. These centers allow students to practice identifying, writitng and counting number 1 to 5 as well as sorting.

Problem of the Day

5 minutes

I start the lesson with a problem of the day to help students review skills and concepts from prior lessons and develop their ability to problem solve.  I call the students up to the carpet. The students find their spots while saying this chant with me.

Criss cross, applesauce, hands in your lap, eyes on the teacher, you've got to show me that.

I project the Problem of the Day on the SMARTBoard and say to students, "This is our Problem of the Day for today.  Look at the objects.  This says 'Find 3 different ways to sort the objects.'"  I point out that this Problem of the Day is looking for more than 1 answer.  It wants us to come up with 3 different ways to sort these objects.  I say, "What is one way that we can sort these objects?"  I call on a student to show us one way.  I have that student talk to us about what he or she is doing and why as the objects are moved.  I repeat this with other students until at least three ways to sort the objects have been come up with.  

If you don't have a SMARTBoard, you can use the pdf copy of the slides in a variety of ways to reproduce this activity.

I tell students, "Today we will be learning how to do new math centers.  Some of our centers will be about sorting again, but some of them will be about numbers.  You will learn how to do all of the centers today and you will get a chance to work with your group on one of them."

Introduce Math Centers

25 minutes

I use math centers in my classroom as a way to reinforce the skills that are being taught.  The math centers give students are chance to work independently or with their peers to complete a task.  The students are not just learning and practicing sorting and number skills, they are also working on social skills including taking turns, sharing, and working cooperatively.  Having students working in centers also allows me time to pull small groups of student to my table to work on skills specific to their needs.

I ask students, "What have we been doing when we finish a math paper each day?"  Answers could include: Put it in the basket, sort things, do our center, etc.  "When we finish our math papers this week, we are still going to clean up, put them in the basket, and get a math center, but this week there will be new centers to work on."  I have the students turn and face the back of the classroom where our math centers are stored.  "These are our math centers.  They are still in trays just like you have been using.  You will take the tray that is sitting on the same number and picture as your table.  When you are finished with the center, you will put it back in the same place."  Even though students have been doing this for almost two weeks, I still review the procedure.

I have the students move into a circle.  I remind students to sit on the hard floor so that there is space for everyone.  I bring up all of the center trays.  I explain and model how to complete each center.  This week's centers are:

Sorting Fruits and Flowers  (
Sorting by Size and Counting with Bears (Download mat from  I cut off the smallest bear since the bears I have are only two sizes.)
Thumb Print Counting
Number Tracing ( 
SMART Board- Online Game Critter Junction (Macmillan/McGraw-Hill)

Each center is explained in the video located in the next section.


20 minutes

Once I have introduced all of the centers, I have the students go back to their seats.  I remind students that we need to share the materials, work quietly, and keep the materials in the tray until they are being used.  I call up one student from each table to come back and get their center.  I circulate through the room to make sure that all of the centers are being done correctly.  I do not pull a group during this first day of centers.  This day is a kind of "trial day" for the centers.  I spend this first day ensuring that the students are able complete the centers correctly.  I assist students who are struggling with the academic tasks as well as students who need support with sharing and taking turns.  When I notice a group encountering a problem that I think other groups will also have when they do the center, I count down from 5 and say "Freeze."  When I say this, all students stop what they are doing, put their hands on their heads and look at me.  This is a procedure that we use throughout the day.  I explain the problem and what the students need to do when it is their turn to do that center.  Sometimes this includes making adjustments to the centers.  I also have the students "Freeze" five minutes before it is time to clean up.  I say to students, "You have about five minutes left.  Remember when the clean up song comes on, you need to quietly put all of your materials back in your tray and return it to the math center table.  It needs to be on top of your table number.  If you are sorting fruits and flowers, you can put your paper on the drying rack to dry."  I let the students work for five more minutes and then turn on Tidy Up by Dr. Jean

There are many wonderful transition songs to be found, for free, online if you'd like to use music for transitions too.

Students clean up and return to their seats.

Students Working:

Sorting Fruit and Flowers
Sorting by Size and Counting with Bears
Thumb Print Counting
Number Tracing
SMART Board- Online Game Critter Junction