How to Simply Differentiate Using Math and Literacy Centers

One of the hardest parts of teaching is meeting every single student where he or she is at. While we all understand differentiating is incredibly important, it can be difficult to make it work! That’s just one of the reasons math and literacy centers are perfect for every classroom! Today, I’m going to let you in on my differentiating secret by telling you how I differentiate using math and literacy centers.

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Why Differentiate Instruction?

Differentiating instruction is such a vital part of learning. Why? Because it gives you so much more than a simple grade. Differentiating instructions shows you how much growth your students have had over the course of a unit or a year which is the ultimate goal!

I have used differentiation across all the subjects I taught in my classroom. The content was the same, but I tailored the material to meet the needs of the students I was serving. The best way I found to do this was by differentiating using math and literacy centers!

Differentiate Using Math and Literacy Centers with Student Grouping

When you are differentiate using math and literacy centers, you are really focusing on two things: grouping and modality. I liked to group students below level, at level, and above level. However, there are several ways you can group your students. Find out how by checking out this blog post where I share how I grouped my students.


Rotating Groups Through Centers

What did this look like for my centers? Well, my students would still follow my rotation, and they would be practicing the same skills all other students were working on. However, they would be working at a different modality might be different from group to group.

For example, my below grade level or at grade level students would be working with additional support tools to complete the activity. This might mean they had fewer questions, a lower level activity focused on a pre-skill or similar skill, or a different modality like digital activities that give instant feedback. At the same time, my above level students would be using modalities. These focused on higher level questions or on extension activities to deepen their understanding.  

A Typical Day of Centers

Usually, when I have a centers day in my classrooms, students would get themselves ready for math centers and small group instruction. This means they would get what they needed like their center folders. Next, they would get with their partner and go to the first center. This may be my small group table if that is where they start.

There is a group of students at each center who are all grouped in a way so that when they get to my table, they are all on the same level for my small group instruction. For this instance, let’s say there is an activity for comparing numbers. However, it may be differentiated in ways to support or push my students depending on their need.

For example, my below level students may be struggling with completing the work in the time given because they have to platy the game and record their answers. So, to help them, I provide them with the self-checking version of the centers on iPads or Chromebooks. My at level students might do a hands-on-activity as well but then have an additional extension activity to do if and when they finish their first task. In this group, I may even pull a higher-level activity out to push my students a bit further and challenge their learning.

Where to Find Differentiated Math and Literacy Centers

Finding activity that are the same but in different modalities or levels is where the real struggle comes in, right? I mean who has time to make three levels of everything? No one! But don’t you worry, this is all about keepin’ it stinkin’ simple! I have differentiated math and literacy centers that are perfect for your classroom.

All you need to do is check out the math and literacy centers for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade! These are easy to differentiate because while on the basic level they are hands-on activities with a recording sheet. However, when you dig a little deeper (click on the resource), you’ll see they are all taken and formatted into different digital platforms (Google Slides, Seesaw, and BOOM Learning) for students who need more time.


All of the activities you can differentiate using math and literacy centers are bright and fun to use! That means, your students have immediate buy in! It’s like getting a nice steak dinner sat down in front of you. The presentation already makes your mouth water! The presentation of these great activities will make your students brains ignite! Plus, they are already aligned to all the standards. So, you don’t have to worry about figuring anything out except what you’re going to do with all your extra time!

What Makes These Games Work?

These math and literacy centers use predictable game-like activities to keep your students engaged all while making it easy for them to play without direct instruction from you. This independence is key for having small group instruction during your centers. With these activities, it is stinkin’ simple to use differentiated math and literacy centers in your classroom today.

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The word “differentiate” can be triggering for some. However, you differentiate using math and literacy centers with ease. All you need to do is, click, print, laminate, and go! Once your centers are organized, your students will be moving around like pros and you’ll be differentiating with your eyes closed!

Until Next Time…

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