Learn how to improve your students’ understanding of math concepts with kid-friendly independent math practice for kindergarten, first, and second grade. Read this guide for a variety of math ideas and activities that your kids will love!
Effective Independent Math Practice for Student
Kids need to experience math in a variety of ways. They also need to learn skills to complete math tasks independently.
Whole group math mini-lessons and math small group activities are essential components to our math blocks, but we must not forget about the importance of independent math practice.
Let’s explore several ways for kids to practice math independently!
Why Practice Math Independently
- Do your students grasp the math concepts?
- Do your student understand your math lessons?
This is why independent math work is vital! It helps us build strong math skills and allows us to monitor each student’s mastery of the concepts.
Create a Conducive Environment
First, we need to commit to making our classroom an environment that encourages independence.
These 5 things form the backdrop to the actual activities that we introduce for independent math practice:
- Allow students the space to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Avoid shaming or embarrassing those who don’t catch on as quickly.
- Provide opportunities throughout the day that allow for a child to practice math skills on their own.
- Offer feedback and further instruction if needed.
- Provide differentiated practice opportunities, based on a child’s level of mastery.
Activities and Strategies for Independent Math Practice
Below are 4 activities and strategies that you will find useful for incorporating independent math practice into your daily routine.
1. Math Journals
Journaling is truly a personal, independent experience. In the context of math, journals can be a way to present a question or problem to a child and have them show their understanding of it.
The child is asked a question and they must show how to solve it, drawing pictures to demonstrate or recording steps it takes to get to an answer.
- Use journaling for all types of skills.
- Journals are easy to incorporate into a daily routine. Each day students know to get out their journals and answer the question of the day.
- Make sure you have taught the material previously! Independent practice should follow the teaching of the skill.
Also, journals provide an opportunity for feedback. You can review their journal entry and leave comments.
2. Math Centers
A vital part of any math classroom, math centers offer numerous benefits. Centers provide more hands-on interaction with math concepts, they teach independence and they provide meaningful practice of the math concepts from a group lesson.
Centers are most effective when they are organized well. Teaching kids how to move from center to center and what is expected of them in each center is very important. It is good to begin the year with some “training” on how to move through center time.
Centers should be fairly simple, straight forward and students should be clear on the expectations for each one. When done correctly, centers can provide that much-needed independent math practice that we are looking for.
When students have more hands-on experiences with math concepts, the deeper their understanding is. Often this is best accomplished with math manipulatives that students pick up, arrange, and explore.
Manipulatives are also a way to get kids practicing math on their own. Give each student a box of manipulatives to use throughout the school year, or have them available for the whole class to use. Include basic items that can be used to explore or demonstrate what they know.
Here is a list of some things you could include in your math classroom:
- Unifix cubes
- Snap cubes
- Two-color counters
- Bear counters
- Hundreds charts
- Number lines
- Place value blocks
- Practice clocks
These items facilitate independent practice when paired with math warm-up task cards. For example, a student could have a card that asks them to solve equations using manipulatives. By having to work through the problem with objects, they are practicing specific skills.
4. Independent Math Worksheets and Activities
Although you want to avoid ONLY using worksheets, they do provide a great opportunity for practice. Engaging, appropriate worksheets can be great for reinforcing a skill or providing assessment. The key is to have quality, differentiated choices that challenge and support a student’s learning.
Whether you are teaching money, time, geometry, or any other math concept, Mindful Math provides quality math practice sheets.
Another great tool for independent math practice is daily Math Mats. These one-page math sheets are low-prep and are a great way to get math practice into your daily routine.
Put the Above Activities to Use!
Independent math practice is an important part of your math curriculum. Use them during your math small groups or at different times during your math block. With the strategies mentioned, you will provide valuable practice opportunities for your students.
By giving kids space to work on their own, we give them the chance to deepen their understanding, strengthen skills, and build confidence in their abilities.
40 FREE Math Journals for K-2
Try our Mindful Math journal prompts that work great as an independent math activity, as a math warm-up activity, or something to do in small groups. Click the image below to grab 40 free math journals for K-2.
Using the Mindful Math for Your Independent Math Practice
If you are looking for a comprehensive math program that allows for easy differentiation and provides supportive lessons and activities to support your Guided Math instruction, then Mindful Math is for you!
The Mindful Math curriculum by Proud to be Primary includes detailed lessons that can be broken down into whole-group mini-lessons and small-group instruction. It also has various independent math practice options, such as journals, warm-up task cards, practice sheets, centers and games, and assessments.
You can read more about the Mindful Math program available for Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade HERE.
See the Mindful Math program in action here.
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