1. Card Stock Paper
Print your resources on card stock paper. It's heavier than copy paper but still easy to cut. Colored card stock is a few dollars more but I find that students respond to resources on colored paper. I personally like to use the different colors to separate my materials by topic (red - fractions, yellow - decimals) so that I can quickly identify what students are working on.
2. Laminating Machine
Laminate your materials whenever possible. They allow your materials to last a long time. I purchased an inexpensive laminating machine that I keep in my classroom closet along with a box of laminating pouches. I have laminated all of my math task cards, classroom signs, hall passes etc. I recently decided to laminate the materials that I use for my math stations so that I can cut down on making extra copies and make my resources last longer than one school year. By laminating my worksheets they have now become reusable. Students can simply write on them with dry erase markers and wipe their work off before the next group uses it.If you do have your students write on your laminated resources I recommend giving them dry-erase markers with attached erasers. It makes fixing errors quick and easy. I would also recommend using markers with fine tips. They are easier for students to use when writing on laminated worksheets with smaller spaces.
With any activity in your class, timing is everything. Keep your students working on task with digital timers. My students have learned to manage their work time more efficiently with these timers. I have each of the groups start at a station and set the timer for fifteen minutes. Every fifteen minutes the students rotate stations. I do not need to constantly interrupt their work flow to tell them how much time is left. I usually assign a time keeper for each group whose job is to set and reset the timer as well as remind students when they have five minutes and two minutes left.
5. File Folders
6. A Variety of Math ActivitiesAt this time I am using four different resources for my math stations.
✔ Task Cards - My students struggle with word problems. So, at the end of every unit I have my students work in groups using 3-4 task cards. Its great because I can quickly differentiate without having to worry about creating leveled worksheets or making copies.
✔ Problem Solving Graphic Organizers - I created problem-solving graphic organizers for my students who struggle solving word problems and are unable to explain their work/solution. Each worksheet presents students with a real-world word problem. Students must then organize the information they are given, solve the problem, justify their work and explain their solution.
✔ Fun Activities - I created tons of math mazes, riddles and coloring activities for my students because they needed the fluency practice but they were so bored with the traditional worksheets. It's amazing to see how quickly they lose track of time when they are doing these fun math activities.
✔ Error Analysis - Every time I incorporate math error analysis activities into my lessons I am always amazed at how quickly it leads to richer discussions and deeper thinking among my students. They suddenly become little math critics and their focus broadens from getting the answer to understanding the process.
These must-haves have allowed my students to get so much more out of my math stations.