How to Use a Math Menu

What is a Math Menu? It’s a list of choices that students can choose from when they finish their work.   (A “menu” of math games and activities.)

What goes on a Math Menu? I like to have a good balance of new games/ activities and oldies but goodies.   I put in newer games to emphasize the concepts of the new material we are learning.  And, I include games where students are practicing skills from previous units.  I also include flash cards, math literature, and a rotation for math games on the computer.

How does the Math Menu fit into the daily routine? There are tons of ways to manage the Math Menu, and, ultimately, you have to find what works for you, your tolerance for chaos, and your class.  What I do is this: When students finish their independent work for the day, they close their book, leaving their pencil to mark the spot, and leave their book on their desk.  Then, they go to the carpet/ back of the room to play something from the Math Menu.

How do you organize the materials? I keep everything in the math center.  I know a lot of teachers like to put everything for one game/ activity in one basket so the kids can take it and have everything together.  I like that idea, but I personally have never found it very practical.  I like to keep everything in its own bucket in the math center and make the kids responsible for getting all the materials they need.  For lower grades, you can list/ draw the materials they’ll need next to each game on the menu.  It helps to keep the math center and the carpet/ play area close together…

How can a Math Menu build skills? You can add games and activities that provide practice for the skills your students need to work on.  For example, my students know how to subtract, but they make a lot of mistakes and need the repetition to become fluent.  Rather than “drill and kill” it with worksheets, I put a few subtraction games on the Math Menu and have the kids use calculators to check themselves.  Or, I give them differentiated Reciprocal Learning pages and let them coach each other. And over time, their subtraction fluency is definitely improving!!

How can a Math Menu be used to differentiate? There are a few ways to differentiate a Math Menu.  One way is to use one color to write the games that align to one standard, and then a different color for those of a different standard.  You can assign kids to a different color based on which standard they need to work on.  For example, some students can be assigned only the blue games/ activities that support subtraction, while others can be assigned to choose from the red games/ activities for place value.  And some students can choose from the entire list.Another way to differentiate is to create specific menus for each student.  This can be complicated, so one way to simplify it is to type up your math menu and make one copy for each student.  Then, you can highlight the games from which that student can choose, highlighting the games that align to that student’s specific needs. 

How often do you change the Math Menu? I like to make a new menu with every chapter (or two chapters, if they are related).  I keep a few of the games from the current menu, add in a few from previous menus, and then start adding new games throughout the new unit.  When the unit is over, I keep a few of those new games, rotate in some of the oldies but goodies, and start adding new games for the new unit.

Happy (Math Menu) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo