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Updated: Feb 27, 2022

For math instruction in my self contained classroom, I have used several programs over the years. The last 3 years, I've been using Go Math with the majority of my students. You can read a little more about how I use it in this blog post. This post is going to go into detail about how I use rotations and centers during math instruction.

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.*

I group my students and I split the class period so that I can work with 2 groups per class period. This allows me time to provide instruction to each student, each day. As I'm working with one group, my other group is working independently or with para/peer tutor support on their math centers. I've tried several systems for centers and I'm loving this 3 folder system.


Each student has three folders. I use a blue, yellow & red folder labeled first, second, third. You could also use plastic bins if you wanted to. My folders are not at all Pinterest worthy. But if you want to get fancy, I made you some labels. You can download them for free here.

The "First" folder is an activity that directly ties in with the student's math IEP goal. The "second" folder is an activity that aligns with the skill that we are currently learning in our math group. The "Third" folder is a review activity from a previous lesson. When I write my weekly lesson plans, I include the centers that I will pull for the week. It makes it easier to pull them out quickly and make sure they actually align with what I am teaching.

FIRST: In the "First" folder, I put in a center related to the student's IEP goal. I use their completed work to collect and record data. You'll want to make sure that you've provided explicit instruction on the skill and that the student is at the level that they are able to work independently on their current benchmark. If your students' IEP goals are not something that can be done in an independent format like this, you may want to have a para run this center. Or you could have students work on prerequisite skills or review of previously mastered objectives/benchmarks.

SECOND:In the "Second" folder, I put a center related to the lesson I taught last in our Go Math groups. I have purchased lots of centers from TpT and also use activities and worksheets from Go Math or other math programs that I have access to. I'll link some of my favorites below. I try to make this center as hands on as possible.

THIRD: In the "Third" folder, I put in a review center. This can be anything from a previous lesson from our current chapter to a skill that was taught earlier in the school year. The idea behind this center is that students are consistently reviewing previously mastered concepts so that they are able to maintain what they have learned.


  • All of the centers that I put in student's folders are supposed to be independent work. Sometimes I have a peer tutor that helps during centers just because I need somewhere for them to be.

  • Other than the IEP goal data that I take at the end of the week on their "First" folder (when applicable), I don't take data or grade centers. I do check that they have been completed and are mostly error free and then they are sent home. If there are multiple errors, I re-teach the skill in our instructional group and then put additional practice activities into student's centers.

  • It usually takes my students about 2 days to get through all 3 folders. In an ideal world, I'd change them out at the end of the day and have them ready for the next day but in reality, they tell me that they've finished everything and I scramble to grab more. In spring last year, I finally set up a system where students would put their finished folders in a bin and put their unfinished folders back on the shelf where they are stored each day. This was much easier for me to see when I needed to replace center activities.

  • I mentioned this above, but if you have students with IEP goals that they cannot do as independent work, you could easily have a para run center where one of your paras works on the activity in the "First" folder and then the students work on the other 2 folders on their own.


First, please know that purchasing and prepping math centers for 4-5 grade levels has taken me years. If you don't have the money or time to purchase, there's lots of free options. You can do almost anything with a set of dice, a deck of cards, and a dry erase marker.

As far as organizing and storing centers for multiple grade levels, I use 12x12 plastic bins. I put all the centers that I have for each skill area in a bin, so addition, subtraction, fractions, place value, etc. each get their own bin. I have two different shelving options in my classroom. These ones from Michaels do not come with the bins and they are more expensive but you can get a good deal on them during Black Friday and sometimes during the summer.

These ones from Amazon are plastic but they come with the bins.


Go Math has math centers on their online platform, ThinkCentral. I also like to use the enrich and reteach worksheets as center activities.

I also love these centers from TpT. I linked the Kindergarten version but they all have higher grade levels too. If you need recommendations for upper grades, let me know!

If you implement this system, I'd love to hear how it goes! Shoot me an email or leave a comment below and let me know. Thanks for reading!




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