5 Simple Ways to Organize Math and Literacy Centers

Implementing math and literacy centers into your classroom is such a great move! However, it can be hard to organize math and literacy centers because there are so many papers, tools, printable activities and more! The good news is there is a simple way to beat the paper mess and organize your math and literacy centers making your life that much simpler! 

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Organize Your Math and Literacy Center Manipulatives 

One of the messier parts of using math and literacy centers are the little pieces. Manipulatives are a great way for students to learn. However, no matter what I did, my students always found a way to turn the manipulatives into toys. So, they would turn my organized centers into chaos in a hurry. Therefore, to keep my manipulatives organized for my centers, I did everything I could to reserve them for my teacher table so I had the power! 


No matter where you use manipulatives in your centers, you’ll want to make sure you keep them organized after they are used. I like to use small plastic containers to organize math and literacy center manipulatives. My go-to plastic containers can be locked, so if (when) the container is dropped, it’s really not a big deal. You can find these containers all over the place. But, I like the containers on Amazon because they are the perfect size for most manipulatives. 

Keeping Your Center Activities Organized 

When I first started using centers, I had them on shelves, inside filing cabinets, on my desk, in a bin. Honestly, they were all over the place! Sometimes, they would be so disorganized, I would just search for the file, print them out…again. Laminate them…again. Cut them out…again. Well, you know the drill! This was such a waste of time. Then, I found a great way to organize math and literacy center activities while they are not in use. 

Storing Not In Use Centers

In order to store centers that I wasn’t using, I found some great 12×12 Iris Boxes. These are usually used for scrapbook paper storage on Amazon. I, personally, like to have 12 for math and 12 for literacy even though it didn’t start this way! Because these can be pricey, I started slow. However, I will say they are so worth it! One way to get some of these boxes in your room at a low cost to you is to add them to your Amazon Wish List or add them to a Donors Choose campaign. If you’ve never used Donors Choose before, you can listen to how easy it is to make your Donors Choose successful here

To organize my math and literacy centers I’m not using, I labeled each container with one of the twelve months of the year. These boxes were my math and literacy centers home when they weren’t in use. 


Inside the 12×12 Iris box, I stored individual activities according to the month I most likely will be using that activity. Then, when it came time for planning, I grabbed that month’s box and started my planning. 

When the next week came along, I would just place the centers I was done with back in the box and grab new ones. This also meant that I could easily bring centers home to store.

Keeping Individual Math and Literacy Center Activities Organized 

Keeping your monthly math and literacy centers organized is simple with the Iris boxes, but what about organizing math and literacy center activities? Individual activities have more pieces so they might seem harder to keep organized. But with these simple tools, you’ll have your centers organized in no time! 

You all know by now that I love to keep it stinkin’ simple! Each center activity that I use is stored inside a gallon Ziploc bag. Yes! It’s that stinkin’ simple! You can find a gallon Ziploc bag anywhere! You can also add them to your Amazon Wish List and let people give  you a little bit of help. The best part about using Ziploc bags is they are easily replaced and not too expensive. 

To organize math and literacy centers, I simply print, laminate, and cut out each activity. Then, I put them into plastic bags. I also add the center cover that has the instructions and standards. Of course I add all the pieces they will need and the exit sheets. I use a smaller bag for the small piece activities just to keep them organized. Whichever size you use, it will make organizing math and literacy centers simple. 

Once everything is put together, I put the activity into the Iris Box I will most likely use them in and I am ready to go! Now, when I am ready to use that activity, it’s a simple grab and go. 

Organize Math and Literacy Centers for Student Use

Now that you have everything together, you can get it out and ready for your students. Each week when I am planning and prepping centers for my students, I grab the monthly box and pull out the activities I will be using. I usually have five center rotations I use to keep groups smaller. This means I need to have four centers for independent activities because one table is the teacher table! 


I organize the in-use math and literacy centers and keep them organized by using 4 extra 12×12 Iris boxes to use inside the student centers. Then, I add the activities I got from the monthly box (bag and all) inside the box that goes in the center. To keep it organized, I will also include any tools or manipulatives they might need. However, remember what I said about manipulatives and chaos in individual centers. 

To help keep my math and literacy centers organized, I like to add a little card that has all of the materials in it. Then, I have my center boss make sure everything gets put back into the Ziploc bag. 

Why Use My Organizing Methods?

When you use the simple organizing methods above to organize math and literacy centers, you’ll be saving so much space! So much space, you’ll be able to check out our volume one and two math and literacy centers for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade classes! Using these standards based center activities is the perfect way to easily differentiate for your students. Plus you'll be sure you are covering all your bases! 

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There are so many ways you can organize your math and literacy centers. From using rolling carts, file folders, pocket folders, or literally anything else, but I can tell you that this tried and true method had never once failed me. While it may seem too easy, it’s the simplicity of the Iris Boxes and Ziploc bags that makes this organizational method simple and easy to follow for you and your students. So, clean up the mess and get organized!

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