How to Set Up a Year-Long Math Computer Center

Set up and maintain a computer center in your classroom to support your math teaching. Let me show you how to set up a year-long center that is differentiated, open-ended and easy to maintain.

If you want to have a computer center in your classroom, go for it!

Let’s talk about why you would want a computer center for math, challenges you might face in getting started, what you need, how it works, how to use free online games and tips to make it all run smoothly.

Why a computer center for math?

The reason I created a computer center to use during our math time is that I teach math using a small-group approach. That means, when I am working with students in the teacher zone, I have students working independently.

The computer center, or the technology zone as I like to call it, is a place for my kinders to practice math skills using free websites.

Students are usually pretty motivated to use the computers which means they are engaged during their independent working time. Annnnd they are using headphones which usually means a few more quiet bodies, allowing everyone to stay better focused.

Related: How to create independent work centers for math

Overcoming challenges

You may face some obstacles and challenges in setting it up as I did, but hopefully, these ideas can help you overcome those challenges and get your center up and running.

Before I explain how to set up this center, let me preface by saying that I began using center this before I had the technology within my classroom for a small group (of up to 6 students).

Literally – I had one computer in my classroom. My teacher computer.

That was tricky but we made it work by using other resources. We brought in parent volunteers to support a small group of students at a time (working in a small section of the computer lab) when we didn’t have classroom computers.

Eventually, I partnered up with our school technology teacher to beg local businesses for used laptops. And it worked. My principal was ready to sign-off on it all since I had a very specific plan in mind.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

Let me also preface that I did not teach in a Title 1 school. We received no cash in order to provide a subscription for any programs for my students

That meant I had to create my own if I wanted standards-specific material. I didn’t just want students playing random games on one site hoping they’d be working on a skill related to what we were learning.

Now, if you can purchase a math program, I highly recommend DreamBox. It works perfectly for a system like math zones and is wonderful in both teaching and tracking student progress. I piloted it once and it was awesome!

Since I didn’t have that option – I created my own and now you can purchase those too to make it happen in your classroom.

Or, if you want to set up your own links to games in a kindergarten-friendly way, I’ve got your back with a template for that too.

What you need

If you want to set up a computer center, I recommend these things:

  • Desktop computers and monitors
  • Sturdy headphones (for each computer)
  • Access to the internet and school network
  • Headphone splitters (if you have two students share computers due to space or budget limits)
  • Seating

And you’ll need standards-based material that the students will work on while at this center.

How it works

Students are introduced to some math games and are taught how to navigate through free online games that practice specific math skills.

Then while assigned to this center, they play the games in the order set by the teacher.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

They use the computer, headphones and mouse (or touch-screens) to complete activities and tasks.

They continue working until it’s time to clean-up.

It’s simple and it works.

Online games for math center

Let’s look at how I used online games to make it easy to maintain this math center all year long and then get into some tips to help you run yours.

  • I picked all of my favorite online math games that are free and don’t require students to login.
  • I planned out how to differentiate the pacing of them in order to meet the needs of most of my students.
  • I put them all into an easy-to-navigate PDF with clickable links.
the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

Want to know how it works?

You introduce the games quickly as a mini-lesson. Students work on those games for two weeks. (In our classroom center rotation that they would play that set of games four times over two weeks)

You post which week of content they should be working on and they click on the matching page.

Then they click a button to go to their level and then play the games in order.

How is it differentiated?

We all have the accelerated, on target and students that need additional support… so there is a page of games for each level, for each set of weeks.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

I use these one-star, two-star and three-star labels to help me create levels and differentiate all kinds of math games and activities.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

More stars equals more support needed.

In my class, it usually worked out to have one group of one-stars, one group of three-stars and two groups of two-stars.

So those games linked to each level meant they were playing games that were at a pace and level more tailored to them.

Why I love it

The whole PDF I made works kinda like a website. It’s really easy for kids to navigate and doesn’t take too long to teach.

Each page of games is simply a beautifully numbered list that students click on to play in order.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

So I introduce any new games (usually just how to navigate the website or to introduce the task if the website has limited audio directions) to students going to this center.

This makes maintaining the center all year long easy to do.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

The games are set up. I just have to introduce any new content or website navigation in a mini-lesson. Often, my entire class watches this as it only takes a few minutes every two weeks.

What do they do if they finish early?

Well, first let me share that I teach them how to play the games, not to skip around and really dig deep and sometimes play games multiple times. Because the content is usually right on their level they are pretty good about staying on task.

But, I’m a big believer that you should structure your classroom activities to not ever have “fast finishers.”

So, with this computer center, I think it’s important to make it as open-ended as possible.

the technology zone {online math games collections} KindergartenWorks

When students have completed the games on their page, there is a set of math videos that they watch and learn.

They can also go back to their page of games and play them again if they prefer.

Will it work on my computers?

I would only recommend the computer math center I created for desktops and laptops. I DON’T recommend this for Chromebooks or iPads.

DreamBox, on the other hand, will work on any device, I think.

You can put it on your classroom computers using something like dropbox or on your school’s network. That way if you need to update the file it automatically updates on every computer.

Tips to run a smooth math center when computers are involved

No matter what material you choose to get started, here are some things to help you get up and running.

  1. Model completing the lesson page (with more explicit instruction at the beginning of the school year) in small groups whenever possible
  2. Model what the ending of activity looks like so students know when they’re expected to exit (eventually many sites will become familiar and they will not need as much direction)
  3. Set the expectations that students: 1) get started right away 2) keep working until the time is up
  4. Use headphones and teach students how loud they sound when they think they are talking at a normal level wearing them. They’ll find this quite humorous to see you demonstrate.
  5. Pick a few students who are tech-saavy to call on to go help others when minor-technology snafus happen so you can stay focused on your small group teaching (whenever possible)
  6. When students ask for help, reply with, “What makes good sense?” or “What did you try?, “What else can you try?” or “Show me what you tried.”

Conclusion

There you have it. I think it’s worth it to have a computer center set up in your classroom so your students can do math without you!

Remember these tips as you go to set up and maintain your computer math center in your classroom.

Use it all year, have it differentiated, make it open-ended and make it easy to maintain.

If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.

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49 Comments

  1. You stated some of the computer games won’t work on iPads about how many will not work? Each one of our students will soon have their own iPad so I was hoping to purchase the tech zone set for my students. Will it still be beneficial to purchase for the iPads?

  2. You’re awesome Leslie! I’m always amazed at what you do for your students. And….I a always so greatful about how you share your knowledge and resources with other kindergarten teachers like me. THANK YOU!

  3. Leslie, thank you for the free technology Zone download!!! I will be using it to reinforce skills in my classroom. Lucky for me, I work in a Title 1 school so I have access to 6 iPads a day! That’s 6 kiddos who can go to the technology zone at one time!!! Thanks again
    Emily Dale

  4. I am a first year teacher– I can’t thank you enough for your resources and your heart for kindergarten! Your creativity and hard work has been a HUGE help (and I know it will continue to be as I start 2nd Quarter :))

  5. I have been trying to download the math games PDF but keep getting different messages. One just says there is an problem and the other one said
    Error 404 The file you’re looking for has been moved or deleted.

  6. Hey Leslie! This is so fabulous…I think! ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t seem to open the PDFs from dropbox. Im getting an error. Ideas? Also, this should work from iPads shouldn’t it? I have 5 in my room…wrote a Donors Choose grant last year and it was funded!

    1. Hmmmm…. it’s working for me on my end Stacie. Perhaps try the downloads again? Tell me more about the error if it happens again. Should be able to use iPads – they are just pdfs with hyperlinks. Congrats on getting your project funded – so AWESOME!
      – Leslie

      1. heehee, came across this blog post again and checked it out and the PDFs are indeed working but not all the links…sort of. Many links take me to a site that looks like it is foreign and also looks like I may need a loggin or account. Do I or are these the links you are talking about that aren’t all ready yet? Either way, this is an AMAZING resource…as usual!

  7. Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!!!!! I have a set of Chromebooks in my room that I use but spend hours finding new activities for my kids to use. You have saved me SOOOOO much time!! And I LOVE that the differentiation is built in! You are my new best friend!!!

  8. I am curious what you mean by “I do not teach in a Title 1 school. We receive no cash in order to provide a subscription to programs for my kinders.” I teach in a school that has Title(MN) and have never heard about any subscriptions. We have a Title teacher and EAs that work with our kids. Would love hear what money there might be out there for us to use. Thanks! Looking forward to looking into this as I have decided this year to try to doing math like this with small groups.

    1. Every school has allowances on how they can spend money. In a previous Title school, we were able to use monies to purchase academic subscriptions to online sites. Not every school or district allows for the same thing, but it might be worth mentioning if you’re interested. I highly recommend Dreambox for math.
      – Leslie

    1. Hi Malissa, I have 5 student computers this year and a teacher computer, so I let them use that. You could potentially rotate using the computer or implement math books on CD or something else. We also brought in a parent volunteer to take a small group down to the computer lab one year. Sometimes it takes being very creative!

      – Leslie

  9. Love these! Can’t get the link for quarter 3 to work though. And is there a quarter 1? I started using your Math Zones last year and love them!! So did my kids!

  10. Hi Leslie,

    I’m new to your blog and I just found it today, but I have already spent hours going through all your posts! I absolutely love all your ideas for guided math, and they come at the perfect time just as I was looking for guided math ideas. This is heaven.

    I have a question about how you made your files. I also use common core but our scope and sequence is a little different from yours. I love your idea for the technology space and I definitely want to try to make my own. How did you input all the links and make your pdf be interactive? Are you a tech genius or is there a site to teach newbies like me?

    Thanks a lot!

  11. LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! so much great info! as i am looking through your guided math set up i am wondering where i would find these websites that the kids go to when they get to this zone. i teach multiage 3-5 and am always looking for meaningful ways to brig technology in but am finding that the possibilities are really lacking…help!
    stacie
    http://www.oneteachertalks.blogspot.com

    1. Hi Stacie,
      I find that I do a lot of searching in order to find what is connected to the standards… really connected. The use of sties and activities like the ones in the download above have been really helpful. We also lack in the technology resources within the classroom, so this is one way that helps us bring technology in! A great site to start with is: http://internet4classrooms.com/. Hope this helps!

      1. DUH!!! I just saw your response to my question and have looked at that download 100 times and couldn’t figure out what I was missing…You gotta click those words! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much! Let me understand correctly though…when they go to the computer lab the download that you shared above is on the screen for them so they can click on one of the choices and move through the math work correct?

        1. Stacie, we keep the files in a folder labeled “K” and we teach our students hoe to get there from the computer label desktop. I have a sign on out door with the week highlighted that they are working on for reference, and they click the week once they open the pdf and begin working in order. ๐Ÿ™‚ You got it! We also use the same format for our normal computer lab time, just with games that are both math and literacy!

  12. Leslie – I simply LOVE your blog and work! Thank you so much for sharing (once again) such great items! :o)

  13. Thank you for your “help us get to know your child” sheet. We LOVE it! We screened incoming Kinders over the past 2 days and we have gotten some great informaiton. I think, as teachers, one of our favorite parts is the “bed time” section. That has been very telling. Thank you!

  14. thank you, just amazing all of your stuff. And I have been hunting for good math games for my computer stations!

    1. I agree! I was just picturing my students all doing their calendar binder sheets on a iPad type of device and seeing them hit the save button and it saves an instant photo of their work, uploads it to their student folder and labels it with the date. I can scroll through these any time by clicking the date (and seeing an entire class’ pages at once) or clicking by student (and seeing their pages from the past month scroll up like a blog).
      (Sigh) Then I came back to reality. This is something I want to create!

  15. Thank you! What a FANTASTIC resource!! I love all your stuff! FYI: I am in Arizona, but my husband is from Buchanan, so we have driven through there a few times. We got in a car accident in Mishawaka:(

  16. I am so excited to see this for math1 I love The Language Arts computer lessons. I just know that this will engage my kinders in math!!

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