Independent Math Activities for Use During Small Group Instruction

Independent Math Activities
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Working on differentiating math instruction? Trying to plan small math groups? Need independent math activities? Read on!

Full disclosure: yes, I am a reading specialist. I have years of experience as a departmentalized upper elementary reading and writing teacher. However, I have been a self-contained second, third, fourth, and fifth grade teacher—I have had to teach math! I also taught virtual fifth grade math during the Covid-19 quarantine. During that time, I made a LOT of independent math activities for students to do when they were not in meetings with me.

How do my ideas work in your math classroom? This article about managing small groups is a great place to start—it works for both reading and math. From there, here are a few ideas you can implement to keep your students learning independently while you work with differentiated groups

Practice Math Facts

Independent work time is a great opportunity for students to work on their math facts. There are many ways to do this for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Practice sheets would be an option.

A fun way to practice math facts is to let your kids team up to play Kaboom! To create one of these games, grab 20 thick popsicle sticks like these. Write math facts on 15 of them. Write “Kaboom” on five of them. Color code each of your sets by marking the end of your popsicle sticks in a different color. Place each set in its own container. During independent time, students can grab their assigned cup. They take turns drawing sticks. If they solve the fact correctly, they get to keep the stick. If they draw a “Kaboom” stick, they have to return their sticks to the container. The student with the most sticks at the end of the game wins.

Another method for working on those facts is to use these cool math fact calculators. We had a set when I was self-contained in fourth grade, and the kids liked using them. This is a much quieter, albeit expensive, option for independent math practice. Your school may have some of these hidden away in a classroom or lab. Definitely ask around before you buy some.

Use Technology for Independent Math Activities

Our district has instructional programs for independent practice like Freckle by Renaissance, Xtra Math, or IXL. This is a great way for you to assign specific skills to each student group for practice.


If your district doesn’t have a subscription to a big learning site like these, you could try I love this site, and it is super popular with kids. With a free teacher account, you can create question sets for whatever skill you’re learning. The program will turn your questions into a variety of fun games. In addition to the questions you make, you can find hundreds of premade question sets on every subject. You host the games and invite students to play different ones on their devices. You could actually host differentiated games for your groups. During Covid, I had students playing Blooket after they left my virtual meeting. These kids loved these games so much that they begged to play them each day. I would assign the game by giving the kids the code as they were leaving my meeting. That way, I could monitor the game from a different tab on my computer while I met with my next group. Even though I couldn’t guarantee that they would do the work I assigned when they left my group, I could tell they were still interacting with my material through these games. Blooket is an excellent incentive!  

Free sites

There are several free math websites for you to check out as well. These sites appear to change hands often, so make sure you go through them carefully. As of fall of 2022, they are free, however.

  • At this  moment, the site teaches multiplication facts with stories and other brain-friendly ways. Teachers can create an account and  monitor a class.
  • Cool Math Games: This site has a variety of games your students can play, and it is a bit harder to monitor or control what skills they are practicing. The site also has ads. It’s a great idea to monitor this one carefully to make sure the ads that pop up are appropriate.
  • Math Blaster: This site has games for logic and computation. It has a fun storyline. The game is free, but you may have to register.

Math Task Cards

Scoot games or math problems on cards held on a ring are a great independent center for kids. You could even project a few of the cards onto your white board or screen. Kids could work the problems on an answer sheet or separate sheet of paper for a classwork grade.

Digital task cards are another great activity. You can assign these activities on your school’s learning management system or your own digital classroom. Students can work through them on their own or with a partner. These are a little time consuming for you to put together so here are few options for you from my own Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Helpful Independent Math Activities

Hopefully, all these ideas will help you plan your math groups and keep everyone on task. You can implement these activities immediately to expedite your planning and make your small group math life generally easier.

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