Guided Math--A Starting Routine

Jul 23, 2014

Two years ago Natalie, Carrie (our amazing intervention specialist) and I started team teaching math together.  It was completely new territory for all three of us.  And, honestly, I was a little (nope...a lot!) freaked out about teaching math.  I have been a literacy girl my whole life.  Math...not my thing.


Something changed that year.  I really think it was the passion that I saw in Natalie, our learning to co-teach for the first time, and our combined efforts for those kids.  I started to really love math.  Like, REALLY love math!!! This was a first. I wanted to read about math, research math, go to PD for math. 

And so I did and so did Natalie.  Together we came up with a game plan for our second year together.  Looking back on it, I think it was pretty successful.  We were happy with their growth and the changes that we made.  But also saw room for us to improve and grow (as we always do!)

Some changes we made for our guided math during  that second year: a set math routine, guided math templates for review, dot cards, and better learning space.

My groups always start with behavior expectations.  We use both CHAMPS and whole brain teaching.  I also remind my students that I am looking for their effort as mathematicians, not just correct answers.  We use this rubric and self-assess our effort at the end of group.

We also go over the learning objective for the group.  I have a binder that contains my daily guided math sheets.  On the front of the binder is where I write the "I can" statements for that particular lesson.  Last year my sheet looked pretty boring....this year....oh yeah!! It looks awesome!

Then it is time to start.  Before we jump into the meat of our lesson, I like to have a "warm up" period.  I do the same in my guided reading group.  (I do much better with a set routine, so I figure that they do too! ) Our warm-up begins with some type of dot-card.  Sometimes it is tens frames dot cards, two colored dot cards, or just one colored dot cards. 

The warm up continues but with some daily guided math sheets that Natalie and I created.  We wanted to practice/review skills that we had previously worked on.  But we wanted it to be quick.  We thought the best way to do this was to come up with templates that we could use every single day but with different problems.  We also wanted to be able to use them with different groups, meaning the problems on them could be easy or hard, depending on the group level. So we did.  We came up with a binder full of them :)

We created sheets for:
Telling Time
10 more/less
1 more/less
Multiples of 10
Place Value
Missing Part
Story Problem
Fact Families
3 Addends
T/F Equations

We put all the sheets that we made into sheet protectors.  This way we could write on them and erase them quickly.  We really wanted this to be quick.

Each week we would look at the skills that we had previously taught and the skills that students were still struggling to grasp.  Those would be the "quick" sheets that we would do during this time.  Typically, I would do about 2 to 4 sheets a day.  But it all depended on how much time we had to spend on each sheet/problem.

Here is an example: if my group was struggling with missing addend.  Then we would work on that sheet during this "warm up" time.  I would write the problem on the sheet with dry erase marker.  Then I would hold up the binder for my group to see.  They would solve the problem on their own, using a strategy that worked for them.  After they had their time to think, they would either tell me the answer to write in or they would write it in with the marker.  We would discuss the different strategies used to find the answer.

Another sheet that I did use just about every day was number identification.  They got really good at this and we could complete the sheet quickly and with very little think time.

 Then there were other sheets that I used periodically because it came pretty easily for them, but I wanted to ensure that they did retain the material over time.

Once our warm-up/review sheets were completed, we jumped right in!  Our guided math lesson went in to full swing.  I always teach the skill, we do it together, and then they do it on their own.  My guided reading lessons follow a very set routine.  But guided math is different.  My lessons are sometimes games, sometimes partner work, sometimes they create something.  It just depends on the skill and the best way to teach it.

But my warm-up routine is one part of our group that remains constant and is never skipped.  I really found that my students truly learned from each other during this period in the group.  The dot cards and sheets really allowed my students to have good conversations about how they solved the problems.  I would watch, over time, students tried out new strategies because they saw someone else in the group using it.  Because of this, the confidence in the group would strengthen and they got really good at these quick sheets!  I was able to create more challenging problems, since the templates are blank.

This was a really positive change that we made to our guided math groups and I will use them again this year.  I even added some more!

But I am always looking to better to my skills.  How do you set up your guided math group routine?


  1. I completely agree with you that our students need routines. So many from lpw income families have lives that can be very disruptive. Routines provide them with a sense of security. I wish I were able to use your morning warm-ups but since I won't be teaching math....maybe I can share some of your ideas with the math teachers once I get to know them. Hope your summer is going well!
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

  2. It sounds like you and your team have worked through a lot! I'm hoping to create time in my day for this; we are piloting a new math curriculum, so I'm not sure what my day looks like yet.

    A Very Curious Class

  3. GREAT post! I love the idea of a daily WARM UP! Pinned everything for you!!!

  4. Oh, how awesome. This makes me wish I still taught math! I especially love your effort self-assessment rubrics... I could use those in my classes! I hope you are doing well! :)


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