Skip to main content

Getting Started with Kindergarten: Core and overview, and structuring centers

Overview of Core Elements

Getting Started & Structuring Centers

Getting Ready and Home/School Communication
o Lesson Preparation
  • Read the built‐in professional development—About the Chapter, About the Lesson, and About the Math—before every lesson
  • Full lesson plans in Teacher Guide for every lesson. All notes—Ongoing Assessments, Differentiated Instructions, Concept Alerts, Teacher Stories—in the sidebars of the Teach and Practice pages are essential reading
  • Regularly updated information, videos, and PowerPoint presentations on the mathematics and teaching of Think Math! can be found on this website
  • Pacing goal is one lesson a day

o Communication with Parents

  • Home School Communication (Teacher Resource Book) sent home before every chapter and includes games and activities for parents and children to do at home
  • Information about Think Math! and support activities can be found on this website
  • LAB pages are done in class, designed to go home afterward

The Curriculum—core features

Morning (Calendar) Time

  • Described at the beginning of every chapter

Headline Stories and Skill Practice and Review

  • A discussion of headline stories can be found here
  • A discussion of skill practice can be found here
Teach and Practice (math class) - Assessment (Ongoing assessment, Snapshot assessment, “Review/Assessment”)
Beginning Think Math! at the start of school

The first month of kindergarten is a crucial time to observe and assess each child, noting strengths and challenges.

  • You may begin teaching the concepts from Chapter 1, Numbers to Ten, using shorter math times and lessons spread over two days. This gives children a chance to feel successful and it allows the teacher time to establish routines and assess each child’s number sense.
  • Do Morning (Calendar) Time, Headline Story, and Skills Practice and Review. Incorporate a few activities from each lesson such as a game, the Quantity Cards, writing numerals or counting. Mostly concentrate on whole class activities. During a Whole Class lesson, introduce a game and then make it available during choice time as a way to slowly get children used to doing centers.

By the second month, you can proceed at the more typical pace of one lesson per day, incorporating more features of each lesson. Think Math! has multiple components in each lesson: Morning (Calendar) Time, Headline Story, Skills Practice and Review, Whole Class lesson and three Centers activities. Each chapter provides several ways to teach math outside of the regular math lesson.

  • Headline Stories (HLS) are quick, whole group activities that engage children in problem solving, and develop language and skills basic to solving story problems.
  • Skills Practice and Review (SPR) are also quick activities, each meant to practice a single skill. This is important for every child to build a repertoire of basic skills.Morning (Calendar) Time activities are listed in the beginning of each chapter. They are also brief and can easily be incorporated into daily morning meeting routines. To prepare for the year, read all of the “Morning Time” descriptions, chapters 1‐9, in the beginning of the year to have an idea of the topics and teaching suggestions. Topics include: representing the day of the month with coins, collecting weather data, discussing the schedule for the day, etc.

Chapter 1: introducing children to number

  • For a discussion of why we begin with number, see this resource: Kindergarten
  • The number rhymes are particularly effective and loved. Other activities in the chapter introduce materials as well as counting and writing. Some children are ready to count and write at this point in kindergarten. Others will be learning the rhymes, but not understand 1‐1 correspondence yet and may not be able to hold a pencil. Children will get more practice with these activities through the year. These are exposure activities: do not wait for mastery before going on to Chapter 2.

Features not to miss:

o Games that K teachers especially recommend

  • Collecting Pennies (See lesson 3)
  • How Many are Hidden? (See lesson 4)
  • Domino Trains (See lesson 9)
  • Which Blocks Are They? (See lesson 1) and I Spy (See lesson 8)

o Quantity Cards

  • Introduce during the first month to familiarize children with the cards and to give them opportunities to recognize quantities. For example, in Clap Twice (lesson 2), the teacher shows the quantity cards in mixed order, and the children look for the quantity of 2. If they see a quantity of 2, they clap twice. Otherwise they are still. In Three Hops (lesson 3), the children respond only to the number 3.

o Finger activities
o Number line activities: in many lessons
o Counting, counting, counting…nothing is more important during the first weeks of school. Count your materials, children in line, days of the week, desks in a row…

Introducing Centers

Introducing Headline Stories

Model for children so that they can see that risk‐taking is fine and that there is not one right answer. They may also need to learn the culture of sharing at group. “Keep that idea in your head. I’ll call on you next.” To help children be patient, some teachers tell them which order they will scan the circle for the next person to share an idea. Children feel more relaxed knowing a turn is coming soon. It is equally important to help children get an idea and then raise a hand. Of course, there will be children who raise a hand and then forget or answer when it is not time to share. You can always ask if the child wants you to come back to him/her when the idea is ready.

At the beginning of the year, you may want to adapt Centers. Teacher does an activity with a group for a couple of days before the children do it on their own. Some teachers take photos (or make stick‐figure drawings) of children doing the activity and post that by the center to help children remember what to do when they’re on their own.

Ways to Use My Math Books

At the beginning of each chapter, prepare a copy of only that chapter’s My Math Book for each child. Each chapter’s My Math Book has a variety of activities related to the chapter to be used during the last couple of lessons of each chapter. These often review activities that the children have done earlier in the chapter; children get a great sense of accomplishment creating their books.


Familiarize yourself with the key vocabulary in each chapter before teaching the chapter. Choose a handful of words to emphasize and perhaps display. You should also know that each chapter’s letter to the family suggests some key vocabulary words. Young children are tremendous language learners. The best way to help them learn the words is to use them in context. If you choose to display vocabulary, include a visual cue and limit yourself to about 5 words at a time. We also recommend posting the numerals 1‐10 in order, with the corresponding quantity. Have a number line posted where children can reach it.

Structuring Math Time and Centers

Each lesson in Think Math! includes a whole group session (with 1‐3 activities) as well as three center activities. Structuring all of these activities into one 60‐minute block of math may feel overwhelming, especially at the beginning of the year. Below are five models that teachers have developed to make this work in their classrooms. Find a structure that works best for you. You may choose to adapt as the year progresses, or even each day, depending on the amount of support you have in your room.

Groupings for centers

When you plan your groupings, there are a variety of questions to consider, such as:

  • Will the groups be the same for a week? Month? Year?
  • How will they move? Together? Individually?
  • Who will be responsible for the materials?
  • Will students have individual folders?
  • How will you use LAB pages? Whole class? Small group? Tear out of book? Not at all?

Everyone agrees that once a game or an exploratory center has been introduced to and practiced with the whole class, it is easier for children to successfully work at an independent center.

Models for Structuring Math Time and Centers

  • Whole Group Lesson ‐ Whole Group Activity

One of the simplest ways to structure a Think Math! lesson is to begin with the whole group lesson. Once the whole group lesson is complete, move to tables and do one activity/game from the “centers” located in the Teacher’s Guide. You choose the activity/game that is best for your class. All students will work on the same activity, but the activity may be differentiated to meet the variety of needs in the classroom.

  • A‐B‐C Model

In this model, you choose the three activities that you consider the most important from the lesson. Part A, the one you decide is most important, can be a whole‐group lesson taught by the teacher and followed by a whole group activity. When a child finishes his/her work, the child gathers the materials for part B, a choice that has been pre‐introduced to the group; the child works independently or with a partner. If a child completes the activity in part B, the child takes the materials for the activity for part C. Not all children need to get to this activity. In this model, the teacher is able to support children needing extra help during Part A, while others go on to B and C. Prepare and introduce materials for B and C ahead of time. Students work at their own pace.

  • “Children Move”

The teacher begins with the whole group lesson. Then, students go to designated tables to work at one of the centers. The Teacher Guide usually gives ideas for three centers, but for a large class (over 18), you may want to create a fourth center to reduce the number of children in one center at one time (4‐5 children is ideal). Each table has the one center’s materials prepared and ready. One center is “teacher led”; the others are games, activities, or explorations that have been introduced in the whole‐group lesson or in a previous lesson. The teacher will direct students to switch tables after a designated amount of time (generally 10 minutes). Ideally, all students visit each center in one lesson.

Alternative: Some teachers choose to keep the same 3‐4 centers available all week, so that the students have multiple opportunities to work at a center. This model also allows students to visit a center for longer; they can visit other centers the next day.

  • “Children Stay – Materials Move”

This model begins with a whole group lesson. Then the students go to designated tables to work at one of the centers. (Again, the teacher may introduce a fourth center to maintain smaller working groups.) Each table has the one center’s materials prepared and ready on a tray so that it can be moved. Once the students complete the center activity, the teacher initiates a transition. Instead of the students moving, the teacher rotates the materials among the tables. The teacher may want to support students at the Center by traveling from table to table. Ideally, all students have the opportunity to work with all different materials in each lesson.

Alternative: Some teachers choose to keep the same 3‐4 centers available all week, so that the students have multiple opportunities to work at a center. This model also allows students to visit a center for longer; they can visit other centers the next day.

  • Materials for All Three Centers at Tables

This model begins with a whole group lesson. When completed, students choose which center they’d like to work at. Each table has the center’s materials prepared and ready. Once the students complete that center activity, the child initiates a transition to another center, where space is available. Since the students initiate the move, you may want to have an extra space at each center to ease the transition.

Related Resource: