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2232 Washington Street
Blair, NE 68008
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Blair Community Schools

Guided Math Q & A

What is Guided Math?

  • Guided Math is an environment in which students are afforded the opportunity to work independently to build Math skills, concepts and strategies through the use of teacher directed tasks and Math Work Stations. 
  • Guided Math is a time for students to practice problem solving while reasoning, communicating, and making connections among mathematical topics.
  • Guided Math is similar to Guided Reading in that the teacher puts the students into pairs or small groups and the students work on specific standards being taught in stations around the room.  Math Work Stations focus on a variety of concepts, thus allowing students to review and deepen their understanding of math concepts being taught.
  • Research suggests that math stations encourage students' independence and increases enthusiasm for learning by giving students opportunities to work together, and talk about math. When students work in small groups, they are more likely to explore different approaches to problem solving, and to question, take risks, explain things to each other, and have their ideas challenged.
  • Students are placed in ability level groups and taught the standards of the curriculum.  Differentiation is achieved as students are in different groups and instruction is changed to meet the needs of the student.
    • The teacher meets with pairs/small group of students for the purpose of assessing student growth and development, while noting areas where additional support is needed.


What are the benefits?

  • Gives children the chance to develop their own strategies for solving problems.
  • Supports differentiated instruction.
  • Fosters self-reliance and the understanding that there is more than one way to solve problems.
  • Allow students the opportunity to teach and assist each other to clarify their thinking and share ideas.
  • Fosters student articulation about a problem.
  • It gives the teacher time to observe and assess student needs.
  • Fosters cooperation.


How are students grouped?

  • Students can be grouped based on their mastery levels of goals/objectives, skills, concepts or strategies being developed.


How much time is needed?

  • Guided Math occurs during a recommended 60-minute math block.
  • Generally, students will stay at a Math Work Station for recommended 15 minutes, then rotate to another station.
  • When introducing new tasks or Math Work Stations, it is recommended not to rotate students more than twice. This allows time for the students to become familiar with the task or station. Students work with a partner using familiar materials from previous whole group or small group lessons.


What does Guided Math look like?

  • Math time is divided into the following recommended daily activities:
    • Whole group mini-lessons=15 minutes
    • Two work stations= 15 minutes each (total of 30 minutes)
    • Math talk follow-up=15 minutes
    • Lesson objectives, activities will determine how much time is allocated to each area on a daily basis.


Ideas for Math Work Stations:

  • With Teacher (small group instruction)- This is where the teacher will do direct instruction on the concept, model it, and allow for the students to practice with guidance.
  • Technology/IPad- a game is found on the computer for the kids to play to reinforce the concept being taught.
  • Smartboard- a lesson is put up on the board for the students to be interactive with it as a small group.
  • Games- board game for the students to play to reinforce the concept being focused on. It is permissible to have more than one center be a game or hands on activity. It could be a worksheet game, one from the math series, purchased product, or one that is created by the Blair Community Schools’ instructors.
  • Journaling/Problem Solving- a problem solving activity for the kids to work on is used.  Students then respond or answer it in their journal and explain how they got their answers.
  • Skill and Drill- This will be a review center where students will practice standards from previous weeks. 
    • It could be in worksheet form where the kids do the problems and then check the answers on a sheet that is provided, which shows them the correct way to do it. 
    • Students use dry erase boards to do the assigned problems. This is great for flashcard activities for simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, time, money, measurement, etc.
    • Come up with some of your own-Use some of your great lessons you've done in the past, and instead of using them whole group, try them in your guided math centers.  Also, look in your teacher's edition math book and see if there are some good hands on activities that you can take from the book and put into a center.
    • Additional ideas can be generated from the district curriculum map, iPad Applications, Nebraska Standards, and web links, such as

How is student work assessed?

  • Informally through teacher checklists or observation.
  • Groups to be assessed should be pre-selected. 
  • Based upon defined and articulated essential learnings, including state or national standards, and age-appropriate developmental concepts.
    • Example, at the 2nd grade level a math goal might be: “Students are able to make change for amounts up to a dollar.”  Their Math Work Station might be to find as many ways to make a dollar with coins.  An observation may be that some students in the group confuse a nickel with a dime or that they have difficulty adding ten more mentally to an amount (this might be demonstrated by using fingers to count up when adding a dime, or writing out an addition algorithm to determine how much they have).  Make a note of these items and address them the next time you meet with this group.
    • Students must be accountable for their own work.  Once they finish their own work, they must show their work to their partner and explain it. Student are allowed and encouraged to teach each other as a way for review.


How are tasks/learning centers/activities created?


  • Develop short tasks that can be done independently of teacher assistance and direct supervision. 
    • Example: NCTM Geometry Standards, 3 – 5, calls for: Use visualization, spatial reasoning and geometric modeling to solve problems.  With the expectation that students can build and draw geometric objects.  A Math Work Station might be to students to build specific 3-D polygons and write about their properties. 
  • Use assessment results
    • Example: Through observation it is noticed that students need more practice on measuring objects, skip counting, adding coins and basic math facts.  Math Work Stations are then developed that address student’s needs and then the level of difficulty is increased overtime.
  • Concept Focus –Math Work Stations that focus on many interpretations
    • Example: Fractions-equivalent fractions, fractional parts, adding fractions, fractions in everyday life, ordering fractions, mixed fractions, etc.
  • Math Strands – similar to using a concept focus, but the focus is on various strands, such as Mathematical Reasoning, Operations, Measurement, and Patterns and Functions. Concepts within these strands are based upon the items that the teacher wishes to reinforce, deepen or explore in a different setting.
  • Math Work Stations– at the start of the school year, general stations are created that reinforce and strengthen the overall math goals for the academic year. These Math Work Stations become staple items and activities.


How is Guided Math structured?

  • Students can be grouped into cooperative learning teams as determined by the teacher.  Within each group, students can work independently, in pairs, or as one unit.  Student groupings should remain stable and consistent for a designated period of time. Groupings and Math Work Stations should be visually posted.
  • In the beginning, introduce one Math Work Stations at a time and have all groups work on the same task with their groups.  At this time, the focus is on how the groups will operate and acceptable behaviors are modeled and reinforced.
    • Example of a group norm: “Ask Your Partner, Before Me.”  If a student has a question or is wondering how to do something, then they need to ask their partner for assistance before they ask the teacher for help.
  • Once the pairs are established and the routines of the stations are understood, teachers can begin rotating students from one Math Work Station to the next at 15-minute intervals.  This can be achieved by using timers or music to signal when to move to another area.  Math Work Stations are visually posted, so that students see where they are to move to next.  Generally, as clockwise or counter-clockwise movements are easiest to follow.


What does Guided Math look like in action?



What is the teacher doing?

What are the students doing?

Prior to Guided Math

–       Placing Math Work Stations within reach of students

–       Updating stations

–       Setting a schedule for meeting with students

–       Monitors might be getting Math Work Stations out for class

Beginning Guided Math (Mini-lesson)

–       Briefly review or introduce work stations

–       Briefly review or introduce new math concept

–       Listening to student explain their way of thinking

–       Focusing on whom ever is leading the review or introduction

–       Using Math Talk to share their ideas about the math topic/how to solve a problem

During Guided Math (Small group instruction/Math Work Stations

–       Observing students

–       Small group instruction

–       Focusing on task

–       Explaining their math thinking to each other

After Guided Math (Share)

–       Facilitating discussion

–       Sharing about what they have learned



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