Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math in Action - Chapters 1 and 2

It's here! It's here! 

Book study time! 

Let's get right to it, shall we?

Let me start with a little background. 

Since implementing Daily 5 in my reading instruction a couple years ago, I have wanted to find a way to incorporate small group into my math block. 

The struggle I have had is time. My math block is shorter than my reading block, and it was difficult for me to envision taking the time to teach lessons in the small group format.

Instead I did what I called math rotations. I did a whole group lesson, followed by three rotations. 

1. Math page
2. Mountain Math/Mountain Language
3. Facts Practice (computer and/or game with partner)

It was helpful in that I had only a small group of kiddos needing assistance with their math practice page at any given time. I wasn't stretched as thin. Instead of 20 kids working on the page at one time, there may have been 6 or 7.

However, I knew it could be better. 

Last year was my first year in second grade, and it was plain to see that the range of math understanding and ability among my kiddos was HUGE. I had some kids struggle to master their basic addition facts, while others moved into division facts.

I knew I had to make a change for next year...and here we are.

Chapter One (my thoughts)

"You get to invite each student to a front-row seat--as a participant, not a spectator (pg. 3)"

I don't want my kiddos to be spectators. I want them engaged and in on the action. I know that too often in whole-group, I lose them no matter how hard I try...

"Guided math allows you to meet students where they are so you can take them where they need to go (pg. 9)."
"...students work on "just right" problems in their zone of proximal development...not too easy or too hard but 'just right'...just enough of a reach that students learn from each new mathematical encounter (pg. 7)."

Reflecting on this year, I know that some of my kiddos were just stretched too far. They became frustrated and in turn did not enjoy math. :-( They needed more time building conceptual understanding of numbers and concepts. On the flip side, there were also those students who could have been challenged more. This is what excites me about implementing small group instruction into my math block. 

Okay, on to the discussion questions:


I completely agree that we need to find ways to "reach and teach all students." I try to use a variety of teaching strategies in my room, but it was good to be reminded not to rely too heavily on the strategies that I like the best or am most comfortable with. 

REFLECTING is key. What is working? What is not working? Get out of our comfort zones and devise new and engaging ways to teach!


Promoting perseverance was probably a weak point for me. I tried to be their biggest cheerleader and convince them that math was fun and they were smarter than they realized. 

However, the book suggests on page 11, "Children are taught to acknowledge and work through frustrating moments while learning to become confident mathematicians." I wasn't very good at the acknowledging part. Instead I would skip right to cheering them on and ignoring somewhat (ouch! - that hurts to admit) that it was difficult for them.

Chapter Two (my thoughts)

My biggest takeaway from this chapter had to do with building a sense of community. I want my students to feel safe sharing their thoughts about math (and everything else). I like the idea of students learning to defend their thinking and challenge the thinking of others. I want to remember to use the phrases "prove it" or "show me what you know."

I'm very excited to use number talks and math energizers to get my little mathematicians thinking and talking about math. A number talk is a short talk about numbers usually focused on strategies. Students share ways to solve problems and model them. A math energizer is a short game that builds fluency and automaticity.

"Never skip the share period (pg. 25)."
I know I need to do a better job of incorporating a share. The share happens at the end of the workshop and while students discuss their thinking, I will be able to make sure they leave with some specific takeaways.

Last year was my first year having what I called "Team Tubs." I had four color teams and they each had a tub with math tools and manipulatives. I loved that the whole class didn't have to wait in line when they needed to get their math tools.

I also had one area designated for my math anchor charts and/or things that I wanted them to be able to refer back to. This year I'm planning to incorporate a math journal/notebook and want it to be a useful tool for them.

If I observed someone doing exceptional thinking, I would often have them share. However, I can see the value in allowing a time for all students to share their strategies and thinking. I will definitely be working on this and attempting to do a better job building a community that is comfortable sharing and questioning their thinking.

I'm sorry that this was such a long post! 

If you've stuck with me, please comment and let me know your thoughts on the chapters and/or how your math block is run.

How do you build a sense of community in your classroom? 

I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I love the idea of using Team Tubs for materials! How smart! I also agree that building community and respect for each other is so important!

  2. I haven't read the book before, so my comments are just from your post... When my district used Everyday Math I also did rotations that were similar to yours. Last year we switched to Math Expressions and I'm not sure yet how I can fit the rotations in. I want to try to figure that out this year, because I really liked the differentiation and participation.
    I loved your idea of each table having a tub of tools. I will probably steal your idea for this year. You're right...time saver!
    Thanks for sharing! I'll be interested in reading more of your ah-ha moments as you continue reading.
    Sarah from Mrs. Jones Teaches :o)

    1. Go ahead and steal! I'm pretty sure I got the idea off of Pinterest anyway! ;-)


  3. What a great idea to have team tubs & color coordinate things for your groups! That is definitely something I need to try this year! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love seeing how people from other grade levels put all of these ideas to work.

    The Teaching Crew


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