I’m going to share with you how I’ve had success with my guided math set up. This method has worked for me when teaching both lower and upper grades. I’ll confess…I don’t do Guided Math the traditional way.

When I first started out, I was constantly planning what my students would be doing during each rotation. I was prepping materials. Differentiating. Prepping more. Prepping. Prepping. Prepping.

And even after I did all of that, Guided Math never ran smoothly.

After all of that prepping, I was still dealing with off task students, interruptions to the teacher table, or too many students in one place. I decided I was finished with this method.

**I made one basic change to Guided Math.**

**And it changed everything.**

## I’m Going to Help You Too! It’s Going to Be Painless, I Promise

First of all, know and believe that Guided Math *can *work in your classroom. **Don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed.** Your groups can be streamlined, but still flexible. You can *even *do this *without *another adult helping in your classroom.

Yes–__you can do this__, even if you have *that *class.

**In this blog post:**

- I’ll explain to you how simple changes have made the way I run Guided Math in my classroom so much better
- You can get support for making the change in your classroom

### The Ground-Breaking, Earth-Shattering, Stupid-Simple Change I Made, That Changed EVERYTHING

I stopped rotating.

No.More.Rotations.

You know those cutesy charts where group A goes here, there, and then there? Group B starts here. Group C starts there. Group D works over there. Then, we all rotate.

Yea, I stopped that.

Instead, I developed a system I call **Flexible Guided Math.** All of my students work at their seats (or any empty desk in the classroom, really. The point is to be spread out.). Then, I pull groups to my table.

**That’s it. It’s that simple.**

I call students over to my table. **I don’t ring a bell and make everyone rotate.** I don’t have set times. I can work with a group for as long of a time or short of a time as I’d like. I don’t even have set groups. I can pull whoever I want!

**And it’s powerful you guys.** I transfer the responsibility of learning to the students.

Instead of them sitting at a “station” working on whatever task I put there, they are choosing what to work on.

Of course, there are guidelines. (I’ll explain that more in a second.)

But the point is, the students are given

the power of choice.I’ve seen nothing but good results from this. My admin even commented to me once as he looked around the room, “This could keep running even if you stepped out of the room. Your students all know what they are working on.”

## The One Essential Ingredient to a Successful Flexible Guided Math Set Up

It’s just one thing.

A Must Do/May Do chart.

Now, these come in a variety of forms, but the must do may do chart is my favorite because of its simplicity. But, I have seen other teachers have success with choice/menu boards as well. It’s really a personal preference. I’m a minimalist by nature, so I try to keep things as simple as possible.

This is a generic example of a Must Do/May Do anchor chart. You can even make individual ones for specific students if you need to. It’s a great way to differentiate your instruction and expectations.

You can be as detailed on your chart as you want. You can put specific centers or activities, certain technology you want your students to use, anything you want!

## The Painless Way I Plan

Planning for this style of Guided Math is very simple.

If you use my **Guided Math units for Grades 1-5,** you’ll notice that there is a lesson plan, a practice page, and an extension activity for each day. So there you have your lesson for the teacher table (or even whole group math if you prefer), your practice page for a must do activity, and an extension activity.

If you like to use the M-A-T-H acronym to plan for Guided Math, this planning guide is simple and concise. Think of the A-T-H components as the various Must Do and May Do activities you want to have your students working on.

Want to download this **free planning guide** to take notes about this post? **Get it here.** You can also use it to jot down your ideas. *Be sure to save a copy to your computer before you try to edit.*

## The Secret To The Teacher Table

Remember–since my groups are **FLEXIBLE **groups, I can pull students in and out of them all the time.

I use the information I gather from my students independent work in whole group math to set up my groups. *(Do I adjust these groups everyday? Not usually. But I am always sure to refine them from unit to unit.)* During teacher time I target students to help grow them in a certain skill.

**The secret to the teacher table is** **the order I pull my groups.**

I usually start with my **middle group**…you know, the kids who are **inconsistent **with the objective. They kind of get it–but aren’t 100% sure how or why they are solving a problem a certain way. Normally I have found that this group of kids need a little extra practice and direction from me before they are ready to try their independent work on their own again.

The next group I pull in are my **high flyers**. This is usually very brief since they have already shown mastery of a skill. I use this quick check in time to make sure that they really DO get it and are comfortable with the objective. By the time I pull them, they have usually finished their independent work and we can look over it. Once I am sure of they have mastered the skill, I give them an enrichment activity to go work on.

The last group I pull is my group of students who are really **struggling **with the objective. I pull them last because I need to spend the most time supporting them! Also, by this time, if a student from my first group is still having a hard time with something, they have probably come back to me for support. Now, I can add them to my last group and give them another dose of targeted instruction.

## What I Use For Must Do/May Do Activities

First and foremost–**independent work**. Either today’s practice page from **my Guided Math units**, or another form of independent work.

### Fluency

I print fluency pages from math-drills.com and put them in sheet protectors. I print the answer sheet on the back so students can check their own work. I also use technology to have my students practice fluency on Xtramath.

### Extension (Center) Activities

These are center activities from **my Guided Math units** and there is one for each day! They line up perfectly with the lesson you teach that day and the practice page your students do for independent work.

My **Guided Math Units** include a variety of extension activities to keep your students engaged. There are sorts, dice games, spinner games, puzzles, board games, and much more.

By the way–These extension activities are another great way to **spiral review** throughout the entire year! You can keep out a variety of extension activities for students to choose from. Prep MANY early in the year and just rotate them.

### More Options for Centers

**Common Core Math Centers**–At the beginning of the year I prep LOTS of centers for the year. I start by prepping the *previous *grade level’s Common Core Math Centers for review, and this year’s CC Math Centers to add in to the mix *as we learn the standards*.

**Click here** to grab these for your grade level.

## And The Bonus? What Does Flexible Guided Math Mean For You?

This ultimately means **WAY less prep** for you every week because students will have so many options to choose from during the “May Do” part of Guided Math that there is unlikely to be too much repetition. Just rotate them every so often to keep things fresh!

## One More Thing I Do–To Continue To Become a Better Teacher

**On the reflection sheet:**

- I write down my green, yellow, and red students and make any notes about the class performance as a whole.
- If there is something I know I need to spend time spiral reviewing the rest of the year, I make note of it here.
- At the bottom of the page I make notes about my teaching. If there is something my kids struggled to understand, maybe I need to spend some time looking at different ways to teach/articulate it.
- Also, if there is something I want to be sure to do different next year, I write it here as well.

This helps me **refine my teaching practice over the years**. Next year, I can pull out this sheet before I teach the unit to have a better idea for how I can teach my next class. *(This Unit Reflection Sheet comes with the Guided Math Year Long Bundles and is in the teacher handbook. See links below for the yearlong bundles.)*

**If you’re ready, grab everything you need for math groups:**

**1st Grade Guided Math Year Long Bundle****2nd Grade Guided Math Year Long Bundle****3rd Grade Guided Math Year Long Bundle****4th Grade Guided Math Year Long Bundle****5th Grade Guided Math Year Long Bundle**

Stephanie M. says

WOW! I just stumbled on your blog from Pinterest. I LOVE this bundle!! I have it in my shopping cart now. I am your new follower. Great resources!

Thanks so much Stephanie! I hope you enjoy it!

This product has been heaven on earth! The organization of the units, the activities, the lesson plans…ALL OF IT, I love! You are creating wonderful products. Keep up the great work!

Hi Cassandra, I am looking for a new way to run my math time (yours is close to mine but a little different, and I'm thinking that maybe the change I need), and I was wondering how long is your entire math block? I'm trying to figure out what my timing would look like compared to the model you've outlined. Thanks so much!!

Hi Jennifer. I have 90 minutes for my math block. 20-30 spent on the whole group lesson and the remainder of time is spent in small groups doing guided math. Let me know if you have any other questions!

This is the BEST math pack I have seen. I'm so glad you have a 4th grade one! It is in my cart! I also LOVE all of you parent helpers and especially that they are in Spanish too!

Thanks Stephanie! I hope you love it!

Tell me more about the "parent helpers" in Spanish, please! Thinking about buying your bundle! Thank you. 🙂

Hi Michelle! Parent helpers explain common core to parents. You can check them out here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Thrifty-In-Third-Grade/Category/Parent-Helpers-252784

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Hi there! I am so eager to purchase your 4th graded Guided Math set, as I am starting Guided Math for the first time this year. I do have a question… do you meet with each group every day at the small group table? Or do you meet with one group per day? Thank you!

Each group every day. BUT I do not have a set amount of time with each group. As I explain in this post, it could be a very quick check in with my high students, and more time with my other groups. I just give my students a one minute warning so they can clean up what they are doing if they know they are coming to me next.

I was so excited to see a blog with resources for 5th grade Guided Math, and I love the way you organize your small groups (allowing more time for your struggling learners and not setting a specific time for each group); however, when I click on the link, the products aren't available. I was just wondering why. Thank you in advance for your response!

Hi Lisa! I am launching 5th Grade Guided Math on June 17th. The links will be active starting that day! Let me know if you have any other questions!

Hi! Love this resource! Just wondering if you have ever had to work in a slit class? I would love to implement guided math, but I will be teaching a combination of Grade 3 and 4 next year and I was wondering if you had any experience with that?

Thanks!

Christina

Hi Christina! I have not ever taught a split class, but I have talked to some teachers that have used the 3rd and 4th grade guided math units together to do this. Instead of doing whole group time, I would definitely do all of your math instruction in small groups. I would recommend grouping your students by grade level and using the activities included in the bundles to keep your students learning when they are not with you. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I'd be happy to talk more with you about how this could work in your classroom. Thriftyinthirdgrade@gmail.com

Thank you so much for creating this resource for 5th grade! I have looked for guided math units for this grade level for the last 2-3 years to no avail. I reviewed the bundles you created for the other grade levels, and it is obvious how much time, dedication, and effort went into them. You have just made my summer MUCH more relaxing and carefree!! I can't wait to purchase these!

Lisa, thank you so much for your kind words! They mean a lot to me! I am glad to help you have a relaxing summer!

I will be teaching 5th grade Eureka/Engage NY math in the fall. This is the second year using this curriculum. Does your 5th grade Guided Math activities align to Eureka at all? I have it in my shopping cart but hoping to hear your thoughts before I actually purchase.

Hi Jen! I have personally never worked with those curriculums, but teachers who have used the 3rd and 4th grade versions have told me they have used the Guided Math units to supplement their curriculum. There is so much included in the units and it aligns to common core. It might benefit you just having all the activities and games for your students to use! (There is one for every day!) Please let me know if you have any other questions. You can also email me at thriftyinthirdgrade@gmail.com

All great ideas! I'll incorporate some on my 1st grade math class!

Love your resources! Hoping to implement guided math in my 4th grade classroom this year. I'm wondering…what do you use for math homework? Thanks!

I moved toward a no homework policy. My students had flashcards to practice math facts, and a reading log from the school. If you want to send something home, you might consider sending home the extension activities. I would use them as a way to spiral review. Students can play the games with their parents. They are still practicing skills, but are having fun.

Great article!!! I do have a few questions. First, if you use the last “I do” component of your whole group lesson to group students, what are they doing while you check their work and how long does it take you? Second, how do you manage the flow of students to centers and technology? Correct me if I’m wrong, but students must first do the independent practice, then fluency before moving to technology or a center? I love this idea, but have no idea how to manage it without my third graders interrupting me that someone took their spot, etc. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

Hi Emily! GREAT questions! I am all about keeping my groups flexible and make sure my students learn to work independently. It takes quite a few weeks to establish this, but once it is established, it keeps those interruptions to a minimum. So, when I form my flexible groups, they tend to be very predictable so it just takes me a minute to do. I also walk around during my whole group lesson to see how they are doing and might make some mental notes. (Okay, Elijah totally gets this, so he does not need to be in my low group today.) Instead of using the practice page to form the groups you can use a ticket-out-the-door. Maybe throw one problem up on the board. Sometimes I run guided math a day behind whole group. Just for the sake of what you asked about. Let me know if you have any other questions! You can email me at thriftyinthirdgrade@gmail.com

When you have a sub do you have them run a small group or just monitor the students as they work in their "centers"? I find it can be hard to give a sub things like this and expect it to be done by them. Thanks!

This is fantastic! I am search of something like this for 7th and 8th grade. I have two daughters that are very visual learners and this would be perfect for them both.

These look great! Any chance you'll put out a first grade bundle?

Yes, I am hoping to! Check back with me this summer!

Hi Heather! It really depends on the class and the sub to be honest. I have had classes that could totally handle groups without me, and classes that could not. If you do have a sub try it, I recommend having independent work at the teacher table to the sub can monitor behavior throughout the classroom instead of teach a group.

How about a 6th grade bundle?

1st Grade Guided Math is available now!

I haven't decided if I am expanding to 6th grade just yet! I am currently working on first grade.

Thanks for all of this- so helpful! Do students check their own "center work" or do they turn it in for you to check? Just wondering how to manage all of the independent and enrichment work.

A lot of the centers and extension activities can easily be made self checking by putting matching stickers (or a quick drawn symbol) on the backs of the matching answers. However, some such as board games, I do not check. For the activities such as the dice rolling games or spinner games you can have your students turn in a piece of paper with their answers from the game. If students do a cut and paste sort extension activity, you can definitely have them turn that in as well. Just spend some time modeling your expectations at the beginning of the year for the different types of centers.

How do these work with a set curriculum like Everyday Math?

Many people use these resources with set curriculums! The bundle includes a handbook which includes a day by day overview of all the lessons taught in the units. It makes it easy to match up materials with your curriculum. You can certainly use the units to supplement your curriculum. However, there are so many materials and resources, some people have even chosen to replace their curriculum with these bundles.

I have your Guided Math Bundle and centers. Can't wait to use them this year!

Do you have any plans to create a bundle for grade 6. I teach in a k-6 school and would love to have access to your wonderful materials. Thanks.

Hi, thanks for reaching out! At this time I have other projects I am working on. I have not decided if I will be expanding my Guided Math curriculums past fifth grade.

I do the version of guided math where we have a set rotation order and time. I would like to move away from that. I was wondering what other students do while you are meeting with groups for "Meet with teacher"?

Hi there! They do the A-T-H as mentioned in this post. They move through those at their own pace and are typically at their seats. If you want to learn more about this–I have a free course: https://thriftyinthirdgrade.thinkific.com/courses/guided-math

How do you introduce and teach the centers/games to your students so they are independent?

During the first 2 weeks of school! I have a free 10 day launch plan in my TpT store and also a free ideas for accountability download.

I teach in a multiage room 3rd-5th. I love the idea of this how would you approach implementation?

I would have your groups divided up by grade level so you could offer differentiated instruction. I probably would not do whole group math at all with multiple grade levels in one class.

Hi, I'm picking up some useful ideas from this, thanks very much! Just wondering – how many students do you typically have in a class?

Hi Claire! I'm glad you are getting some ideas! To answer your question, typically anywhere between 20 & 26!

Where can I get the reflection book?