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Having Fun in Third Grade Math Centers

By Pamela Martin

Give students a chance to have fun practicing new concepts with these math center activities. Grade three students work with decimals and money, geometric shapes, and basic facts and operations with projects and games.

Third Grade Math Practice

Third grade students explore many new math topics, and teachers often find that there isn’t enough time to delve as deeply and practice as much as they would like. A math center allows students to use “down time” when they’ve finished other work for math fun and practice.

Meals on a Budget

Provide menus from a variety of restaurants. Give students a daily budget and encourage them to select menu items for a day’s three meals, staying within the budgeted amount. After working with decimal multiplication, have them include the sales tax and tip amounts in their calculations.

Add science and health to the project by requiring that the planned meals meet the food pyramid’s daily recommendations.

Eerie Angles

Leave pictures of spider webs in the center and encourage children to practice protractor use by measuring the angles formed by the webs. Make the activity even more challenging by providing a list of angles for students to use in drawing their own webs or other pictures.

Artsy Shapes

Add toothpicks and erasers, corks, gumdrops or marshmallows to the center. Building geometric shapes with the materials will help students grasp the concept of points and vertices, as well as the characteristics of each shape.


Place a selection of board games in the center with sets of flashcards. Students play by the standard rules, except that they must correctly answer the problem on the flashcard before taking a turn. You can also copy word problems onto cards or print state assessment practice problems onto cardstock in place of the flashcards.

Regular playing cards become a learning tool when students play Operations War with them and with a spinner marked with the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division signs on it. All cards are dealt evenly to the players. Each player turns up the top card from his or her stack, spins the spinner and completes the operation indicated with the numbers on the two cards; face cards count as 10 each. For example, if the two cards displayed are 4 and 7 and the player spins “+,” he will add 4 + 7. If the other player spins “x,” she multiplies 4 x 7. The player whose calculations yield the highest number keeps both cards, with the object being to “capture” all the cards. A tie in calculations results in each player placing three cards face down and one more face up. Players repeat the play process and the person with the highest number keeps all 10 cards: the two original ones, the six unrevealed cards and the final two used to calculate.

Let students race to reach 100 (or another targeted number) by rolling two dice and adding or subtracting to keep a running total. The first person to reach exactly 100 is the winner. Practice multiplication and division by raising the target number.

With these math center activities for third grade, your students will jump into learning and practice without even noticing that it's all about math!


For more games and activities, check the following resource websites.

Math Cats: Math Activities Idea Bank

Joanne Griffin, Channelview ISD: Guided Math Centers

Joanne Griffin: Computers

Joanne Griffin: Board Game Centers

Joanne Griffin: Math Folder Games

The Cornerstone: Math Games/Center Ideas