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Tips for Guided Math Stations

By Brian Smith on March 9, 2015
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

I love to teach reading! Love it as in "my favorite part of my day" kind of love. I enjoy planning and teaching guided reading because it is so child specific. Guided math, however, was a lot harder for me to wrap my head around. Math seemed so whole-group. Math also seemed a harder subject to veer away from our system’s math program. In my head, guided math was too messy and hard to manage, but when I really looked at my students' ability levels in math by administering pre-assessments, it became obvious that I needed to work with my students in small groups.

I have four guided reading stations that four groups rotate through. It made sense to use the same type of rotation that my students were used to for math. Each of the stations stays the same for a full week until the entire class has rotated through all of the stations. Small, skill-focused groups are not part of the rotation. During our guided reading time, while students are in their station groups, I pull each of the skill-based groups to my small group table and that is when students get their skill-focused material presented to them. Each of those groups gets seen for 15 minutes a day. Also, I use supplemental supplies from my school system's adopted math program for those groups as well as for the Independent Work station.

Guided Math Rotation Schedule

I have compiled a list of my favorite resources for my work stations (with the exception of the Independent Work station, for which I use my school system's materials). The resources are not listed in any particular order.

 

Math Book Work

I do not use textbooks in the Math Book Work station, but instead I rely on picture books that deal with math concepts. Here is a list, sorted by math topics, of 20 of my favorites books that I use.

Books that count by 1s to 5, 10, or 20 (forward and backwards counting):

Books that count to 100 (typically with some skip counting):

Books that use skip counting:

  • What Comes in 2’s, 3’s, & 4’s? by Suzanne Aker and illustrated by Bernie Karlin

  • If You Were an Odd Number by Marcie Aboff and illustrated by Sarah Dillard

  • If You Were an Even Number by Marcie Aboff and illustrated by Sarah Dillard

Books about shapes:

Books about patterns:

  • National Geographic Little Kids Look & Learn: Patterns

Bedtime Math Covers

One of my favorite things to do with this center is to use the Bedtime Math books, Bedtime Math and Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal, by Laura Overdeck and illustrated by Jim Paillot. (The third book in the series, Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out, was just published on March 3, 2015.) The books are designed for parents to read to their children at bedtime, but I have found they easily transfer to the classroom.

Each page has an introductory paragraph and three different problems that have been differentiated for Wee Ones, Little Kids, and Big Kids. The activities (which I either create or find online) that follow the other books listed above tend to be basic foundational concepts that all students complete. But the books in the Bedtime Math series allow me to differentiate easily. I read the introductory paragraph and the problem that the students need to solve on my iPad. Using the Voice Record app, students can then listen to the recording as many times as they need to help them solve the problems.

 

Real World Work

Math MarketFor my Real World Work station, I try very hard to give my students real life experiences that make sense for younger learners and are still high interest. My kids’ favorite Real World Work station is Market Math. Once I get it up at the beginning of starting guided math, it is really easy to change each week. Students answer my weekly questions and then create their own word problems. Students love that there is always the chance that the word problem they create will show up the next week as one of the word problems that every student completes.

Samples of word problems:

  • Sort the fruits in the basket two different ways. Draw your answers.

  • Name all the different patterns that you could make with the food in this basket.

  • Caden wants 3 potatoes, Whitney wants 2 ears of corn, and Gunner wants 5 tomatoes. How many vegetables do you need to buy?

If you use your students' names in these word problems and write in a repetitive text fashion, students will have more independent success. Also, notice that I used vegetables in the word problem because I had fruits in the basket to sort. This way both problems can be completed, using manipulatives, at the same time.

 

Math Game Work

Finding materials for the Math Game Work station can be challenging but when I find something, it’s great because I can use it over and over. Games that I use are:

 

If you have the technology in your classroom, this guided math station can also be completed online, but I would advocate for a definite mixture of hands-on math games and games using technology. Here are some of my favorite online games and apps:

Of course, there are many more books, games, and online activities. Many math programs come with online components and I recommend that you use those also to help with solidifying your students’ learning.

What are some of your favorite resources to use during guided math?

Find me, dad2ella, on Twitter and Pinterest.

I can’t wait to see you next week.

Comments (3)

I saw that your groups were Monday-Thursday. What did your Fridays normally look like for math and literacy?

Hi John - a comment of yours to the Classroom Management Miracle: Executive Functioning (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2013/10/classroom-management-miracle-executive-functioning) post was inadvertently removed. Is it possible for you to republish the comment? I apologize for the inconvenience.

Great post, Brian!

I love the detail you have put into planning for worthwhile, engaging math activities for your students.

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