Guided Math

I thought I was going to share an update about what’s been going on with our math rotations, but when I went back to look for the posts to link to, I realized I haven’t actually done it yet.  So now I will.  🙂

I will remind you of how I’ve been learning and reading about math lately.  You can read about that here and here and here.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Hee hee….

One of the biggest changes that can be seen in our room during Math Workshop is the use of rotations and small groups.  I guess I have always done groups of some sort, but I’m not usually a follow-this-strict-time-frame-and-schedule kind of person.  They usually happen spontaneously.  After a mini-lesson when kids have questions, or when some need review of some part of a concept.  We might just meet once or twice to meet a specific need and then move on to the next one.  So the whole idea of planning strict, timed math rotations with a predictable schedule and routine was a big rigid for me.  Believe me, there is structure and routine in my room, but many would say it’s a more relaxed version.

Well, hearing how great it was working in some other classrooms around my school (and especially in my neighbor Pam’s 5th grade next door!), I decided to try it.  So now, at least during math, we have a schedule.  It’s built on a 4 day cycle of rotations, with days 1 & 3 and days 2 & 4 being the same (thanks again to Pam –this was not my idea.  She TOTALLY created it and shared with me.  Gotta give major credit where it’s due. 🙂 ) The schedule looks like this:

Now, I am lucky enough to have another teacher push-in to my room for math support during the second half hour of our math time, so she takes one group and meets with them, and I spend time with the others.  We get to do double duty and it works really well.

Every 15 minutes, kiddos rotate through stations and work on something math related (I know, duh, right?):


We have a laptop cart that is shared by my teammates and I, so we grab 5 and set them up in a mini-lab situation during math.  Most days we play games on, which my kids are absolutely in love with (again, a find by my ubersmart friend Pam).  I love that I can set up which skills they work on.  Each kid has their own username and password, and it keeps track of how they do.  I get periodic emails about what’s happening there, so I can keep up on what’s going on when they’re in that station.  Double nice for all of us.



I’m pretty sure that it’s meant to be called Active, like with an E on the end, but since our interactive whiteboards are ActivBoards, I thought that name was catchy.  I know, it’s weird, but that’s what I do.  So, at this station, students work on something I’ve got ready for them on the ActivBoard, and it usually related to the unit we’re studying.  The one they’re doing in these pictures is one I found from Promethean Planet, and has word problems about decimals.  I just made a flipchart for next week, however, that has sudoku puzzles.  I’m excited to share that one.  The take turns in their group working at the board–“sharing the pen”–and then work out the problems on their own when it’s not their turn.  Of all of our rotations, this is the one that seems the hardest for us for some reason.  We’re working on making it go more smoothly.



This is a basic math game station.  When kiddos come here, they play a game with their partners that is about a concept we’ve already learned about.  Usually it’s from the last unit we just completed, or is related to basic facts or operations that most everyone needs practice with, like multiplication and division.  Usually I tell them which game to play, but everyone in a while they have a “free” day where they can play a game of their choice.


I don’t have a picture of this one–probably because it would just look like a bunch of kids writing in a notebook.  During this rotation, kids work on problems that might require writing, or that are an “extra” thing we’re not directly doing in our math unit.  They are usually higher level, and are meant to stretch them a bit.  One group was working on problems related to whether or not the Harry Potter franchise was successful at the box office (this one was a big treat for some MAJOR HP fans in my class!), one group solved problems about conversation hearts, and then there was one related to volume of chocolate Valentine’s candy. These were all found on


So since I was taking the pictures, you get a glimpse of my teaching partner, Ms. Rose.  She’s pretty great, and this is the group she works with on most days.  Whether they are meeting with her or with me, these times are used to meet the specific needs of the group, based on info from a pretest (in the beginning stages) and the work we do together (which I use to know where we should go and how fast).


Sorry.  Again a pretty boring picture, but it’s of kids practicing.  Makes sense, right?  This is a station they go to after we’ve learned something together.  The work they do here helps me know where to go the next time our group meets together.

We are in week 4 of this whole Guided Math math rotations thing and I think it’s going pretty well.  Check out what my kids had to say about it the other day by reading what they wrote about it on their blogs.  Their words speak volumes to how beneficial it seems to already be for them as learners.  Can’t wait to see where it goes!

***MAJOR SHOUT OUT:  I’ve mentioned all over this post that these ideas are not mine.  They are not original to me, and come from some really hard work shared with me by my colleague and teammate Pam LeSeure.  She found the whole Guided Math framework to begin with and then ran with it!  I have been lucky enough to benefit from her blood, sweat and tears as she figured it all out. She’s been an amazing support to me!  Thanks again, Pam.  🙂 ***

12 thoughts on “Guided Math

  1. I loved seeing the pictures and reading more about how it is going. It helped me think of ways I could incorporate this more with my 2nd graders! Great job Jen and Pam 🙂

  2. Here’s a fun way to encourage thinking/problem solving. Connect all 9 dots below with only 4 straight lines

    * * *
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    * * *

  3. Enjoyed reading this! I finally let go of the daily rotations this year and it has really worked out. For me, it became a little frustrating to stick to my 15-20 minutes rotations, especially if I had a mini lesson that lasted longer than expected.

    So what did I finally do this year….I set up weekly requirements. Every day after I end the mini-lesson, I display the required Priority Pages (selected pages from Investigations). On Mondays, I display the activities for the week. Each student chooses one each day (completing all by the end of the week). The activities are: Math Games, Partner Math, Task Cards, Math Response. I have a select number next to each which indicates how many students can sign up for it. This has worked out so well for me and my style. Oh, I also indicate each day which students I will work with. They are still to sign up for an activity—they go to it after I meet with them. I also have Xtra Math set up in my classrooms and students rotate through it when their name pops up.

    So happy to hear you are enjoying the flexibility of implementing Guided Math with our program 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment! It’s funny that you said you just gave them up, as I am just trying them for the first time. I totally hear you when you talk about having issues with timing in each rotation. I was a little scared with this whole idea at first, because it is really Anti-Jen to create a schedule that is so rigid and timed. But because of the range of learners I have this year, I knew it was the right thing to do to best address their needs. I don’t do a whole-group mini-lesson, but instead teach a varied version to each small group that I meet with. I tailor it to whatever they need, and change things as far as pace and content. The essentials are there for everyone, but there are things added for others who need more. My kids are loving the variety it gives us, and I also like that I can incorporate lots of different kinds of math (sometimes from other units that we might still need work on, or things that are math-related that we wouldn’t have had time for before in our math block).

      I love the description you gave for what you’re doing. It’s interesting to read about, and reminds me a little of when I did Invitations in the primary grades with have-tos and can-dos. I am such a visual learner, however, that I’d have to see it in action (or at least in grid form on paper!) to really “get” it. Is it easy to manage? Easier than when you were doing rotations, I guess. 🙂

      What do other teachers in your grade level do? Do they follow the same framework as you, or use something else?

  4. Haha….I started to email you my chart to provide more of a visual bc I’m sure my explanation was confusing! 🙂

    For me, it is SO much easier to manage. Let me say, I usually change things every year to fit the needs of the group so I may go back to a format similar to yours next year. But for the group I have now—this works!!!! I have such a high group this year and they enjoy “choosing” what they get to complete that day. They also like the flexibility of sometimes working with a different friend several times a week. What I like most is how I’m able to differentiate my activities without spending so much time in the daily planning of it.

    My teammates pretty much follow the lessons as presented in Investigations.

    • I’d LOVE it if you sent whatever you were willing to share. It’s nice to have options, and I think the style of what you do matches my style. Like I said, this is new to me and I’m still learning. My kids have had such positive reactions (in what they say, in how excited they are about math, in how much I know about them as mathematicians and in how I see them performing). But whatever we do, flexibility and differentiation are the key!

  5. Pingback: You Asked For It! « 20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher

  6. Pingback: Math Warm-Ups March 4-8, 2013 | 20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher

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