Saturday, July 21, 2012

Guided Math

First grade math builds on skills learned in kindergarten and these concepts are VERY important as building blocks for learning to come.  In first grade, the most important ideas that we review and learn are:  number and number word identification (0-100), addition, subtraction, place value (numbers to 100), time, money, geometry, and measurement.
This year marks our second year with a new curriculum,  enVisions (Pearson).  We LOVE the interactive nature of this new program as well as the technological components that we use with our SMARTboard.  One of the greatest differences with this program and what we’ve used in the past is the Guided Math component.   Think Guided Reading except with math concepts.  I use the "rotation" concept that we use in Guided Reading/Daily 5 so students are already familiar with my expectations.  Last year, I didn't start this until February or March so I'm not sure what it will look like at the beginning of the year, but I have a plan in my head.
Here's a snapshot of Guided Math (my way):
1.  Students are introduced to new topics each day with an interactive Smartboard "introduction" brought to us by enVisions.  Sometimes they're a little slow but they do well to introduce the concept and the "above grade level" group (who will have independent practice first) then has a basic introduction to what we will be talking about.
2.  Students are then placed in small (but fluid) groups according to their understanding of the content.   Small groups of students will complete the math packet for the day with the teacher's guidance or independently, depending on their level of understanding.  The above-grade-level group works on the math packet independently (as they are usually able to) and they come to me during the last rotation to check their packet and go over anything they may not have understood.  We have this rotation schedule projected on the Smartboard and the KEY to the success of this is the timer! :)

      Thanks to Sara Schlickbernd (2nd grade teacher) for coming up with this Guided Math Rotation idea in the first place! She's amazing!  You can follow her at

3. While the small group  is working with the teacher, other students are completing fact fluency practice on laptops using the website (see another post for more info on this) or working at their desks reviewing previously taught skills through the use of games and hands-on activities. I have especially enjoyed this addition to our classroom repertoire!  Before Guided Math, we studied concepts in isolation, went at the pace of the middle-of-the-road students, held the above-grade-levelers back, hoping the below-grade-levelers could keep up (that's honest, huh?)! :/ Now, we are constantly spiraling!  Believe me, it showed in our MAPS assessment scores!
4. The hands-on games and ideas that I use for this "rotation" time are all from pinterest, teacher webpages, & my own personal stash of goodies!  I have three-ring binders with the main topics of study written on them and have been "collecting" games/ideas for 15 years! (Sidenote:  I don't use the games that are provided through enVisions simply because they are SUPER verbal and I don't have the time in my schedule each day to explain how to play the games and, for a good portion of the year, my students can't read the directions independently.  PLUS, when I was using them, my students weren't engaged in them AT ALL!  Probably lack of preparation on my part - but  . . . . .)  Anyway, back to games!
I try to use one "game" that involves the topic of current study.  All of the other activities are review of concepts previously taught!  On the first day of the topic, enVisions traditionally has a little Home Connection game that you teach and a short introduction to the topic.  This doesn't take much time so I use the extra time (no rotations on this day) to explain ALL of the activities/centers for this topic, teach the students how to play the games, and explain, if needed, any recording that needs to take place.  I try to line up enough activities (depending on the scope of the unit) for students to complete one center each day.  So, with some units there are 5 activities to complete and with others there are only 3!  
Students typically only have 10-15 minutes left after they work on fluency on the computer, so this works nicely.  IF a student completes all of the centers before the unit of study is over, they can repeat a center, choose from some cards games that we learned at the beginning of the year, or use the iPad to play math games (VERY popular!)  

Once all of these concepts have been introduced, we use Number Detectives EVERY topic.  It has TONS of spiraling built in - LOVE IT! Students record the number that they use weekly to keep track and make sure they don't repeat.  I suggest using   a smaller # one week then a bigger one!  I have tweaked this a bit but this is basically the form we use! I keep this recording sheet in the tub and students know they can't use the #11! Thank you to Katie King - Queen of First.

5. IF the activity that the students completed has a recording sheet, it will need to be graded.  The math packets usually don't take the whole time so I send that group of students back to their desks for independent or center work and that's when I call students to the table to grade what they have completed!  I believe that accountability is VERY important to this process!  Otherwise, students will rush through everything just to get done with no regard for neatness or, more importantly, accuracy!  ALL of these activities are stored in baskets (pictures to come) and, if students don't complete the activity that day, it goes back in the basket to be picked up the next day and completed.  
6.  This year, I am going to use a graph/checklist of some sort for each topic so students can check off each activity as they complete them (accountability).  Otherwise, I found out last year, I couldn't remember who had done what because I'm busy with a group of my own!  :?  Anyone else have this problem?  
Anyway, here's what I used for the Number Detectives center and  I plan to do something similar to this for each unit with the topic at the top and each center listed on the top line of the graph.  

I KNOW this is a lot to digest but I hope it's clear!  Clear as mud, eh?  
I will talk about this more as the year progresses and include pictures and other ideas for clarification!  So, check back often for updates!


  1. You are awesome! You put all of the thoughts in my head about guided math and put them into words! :) I can't imagine teaching math whole group ever again! I think I'm going to borrow your math detectives idea and tweak it for second grade. Love that!

  2. I am so glad you are able to use Number Detectives! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Queen of the First Grade Jungle

  3. Thank you so much for you for explanation. It makes so much sense. I'm jealous that you have the enVisions (I think). Our math selection is awful! I'm anxious to read as your year progresses.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, ladies! It's good to know I'm not the only audience for my writing - yay!