April 23, 2018

Learning Centers on the Cheap: Clothespin Math

Need a basic math center activity for multiple grade levels that will cost you next to nothing? Try this affordable idea that requires nothing but clothespins and index cards.

First, start with a collection of wooden clothespins. Use fine-tipped permanent markers to write various numbers on them appropriate to the grade level you are instructing. (Early primary grades will have single digit numbers, intermediate and middle school classrooms will have higher numbers appropriate to their studies.)

Next, cut several small index cards in half and write a math problem on each. For each numbered clothespin, you’ll want numerous cards with problems that all equal that number when solved. An example would be for a clothespin numbered 9, you would have index cards halves with problems such as 6 + 3, 11 – 2, etc.

The answers are left blank for students to work through them on scratch paper or in the case of primary level problems to eventually learn them by memory. Put the answers for each problem on the back of the index card so students can self check their work.

Students spend time at the learning center working through the problems and clipping each one inside the correct clothespin as they find the answer. For older grades where you are working with three and four digit numbers, this center will work well when you need an activity that takes enough time to allow you to run separate reading or math groups. Simply assign seatwork that will take 30-45 minutes to complete, and you have enough lessons for three full group rotations.

Teaching Tip: laminate the index card math problems with clear contact paper to keep them from getting damaged. This allows you to use this center year after year without developing the materials from scratch each time.

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What are your favorite affordable math activities?

Photo Credit: Geisha Boy 500

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