I can’t help but look through each classroom I visit to see what kinds of materials make up each center. Sometimes it feels like snooping as I try to ascertain whether or not the math center is also the science center or if there is a math center at all. In some rooms, there are shelves near a table and there are materials on those shelves that may or not be math materials. If I can’t tell, then there is a problem.
Math Centers should be rich with a variety of engaging, open-ended materials that children can explore on their own, with their friends or in groups. They should be specifically presented and used for math investigation (even though they may clearly use them for other explorations as well.)
I really like to see a wide variety of developmentally appropriate games in the math center as well. Ideally, a good math center will have:
Checkers and Chess
Bingo (all varieties)
Dominos (with pictures and pips)
Chutes and Ladders ( a.k.a Snakes and Ladders)
Hi Ho Cherry-O
Shut the Box
This list is far from complete, but it is a good start. Many of these games are too sophisticated for younger children, but they will find ways to play with them, if allowed. They will develop into them with experience, over time. Remember, three-year olds need an older peer or adult to support them as they begin to develop interests in games with rules; so offer to play with them. Encourage them to count the dice, move their pieces themselves, and match their cards, etc. This is how they develop the skills necessary to play unassisted with their classmates.
What other games can we add to our list?