teacher helping in guided math groups

3 Easy Guided Math Group Ideas That Work

Guided math groups are fun! You get to work with students in small groups and see their thinking in a small group. It’s easier to understand if a student understands the math skill you are teaching. It can tell you so much about them as a mathematician.

So, in today’s post, I will share with you what guided math is and three ideas that work efficiently so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty of establishing your guided math section, if you are looking for a guide to set up your own Math Workshop, I have a guide for you sent directly to your inbox! Just a teacher helping out another teacher! Click here to make your math workshop more engaging and fun!

What is Guided Math?

Guided math is focused on teaching in small groups that make it possible to provide appropriate instruction. 

Meaning:  Small group instruction = differentiation

You can address individual students’ needs, keep them engaged, understand their strengths and struggles, and use that to build their confidence in math!

In guided math instruction, students share their strategies, explore a math skill, and talk with each other (meaning, you are not talking, they are). 

Guided Math Group Ideas

There are many different ways to plan your guided math lessons, but these three are my favorite to get students engaged in math talk and exploring the world of math around them.

Problem Solving in Guided Math

This is where I have my students make connections among the strategies they have used in the past or that others have used. 

A great example of a problem-solving task would be the 3 Act Tasks by Graham Fletcher. 

After presenting the problem, I want to ask the students to make a connection with the problem. So I ask the following questions:

  • What do you know about the problem?
  • What connections can you make to the problem?
  • Have you solved a problem similar to this before?
  • How did you solve that problem?

The point of these questions is to get students thinking and activate their schema. Many students want to hop to the answer right away and not think through the problem. This makes it challenging when the problem changes and they have to solve a missing addend question. Students need to slow down, think about the whole problem, and plan how to solve it. 

Reinforce a Math Skill

This is where I introduce a new station to my students. It is usually the math game station. I teach my students the new game, which focuses on a specific skill we learned in the whole group mini-lesson. I model the game first, then release it to the students to play with partners or individually. I watch over the students, and I ask questions while they are playing the game. 

  • What strategies did you use?
  • How did you decide to solve the problem?
  • Is there another way to solve the problem?
  • I noticed that _____. 
  • Can you explain what you have done so far?

These questions allow me to see if the student understands the skill or if I need to review the skill for them. 

Assessing Students with Guided Math Practice

This can be done formally or informally. I usually use a problem-solving activity or a math game to take notes on a student. What I am looking for during these assessments is their understanding, strengths, and struggles with math skills. I also want to know what strategies they are using and note any strategies that work well for them or that I need to clear up for the student. 

During these assessments, I might ask:

  • How did _____ solve the problem?
  • Was a strategy you used in the past that helped you solve this problem?
  • Tell us how your strategy is different than ______.

This will give me insight into whether or not they truly understood the skill and if they can use and implement another strategy that another student in the group used. 

Guided Math Practice

Guided math is focused on teaching in small groups that make it possible to provide appropriate instruction. 

Meaning:  Small group instruction = differentiation

You get to work with students in small groups and see their thinking in a small group setting. Strategies such as problem-solving, reinforcing math skills through a game, and assessing students are great for guided math. These activities help you know if a student understands the math skill you are teaching, enabling you to see how they are getting to the answer. It can tell you so much about them as a mathematician.

So next time you are teaching guided math groups, use one of these three strategies in your group to help your students become more confident and engaged in math.

Related Articles

 3 Act Tasks by Graham Fletcher

How to Teach a Whole Group Lesson in 15 Minutes or Less

Free Math Workshop Workbook

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Hi, I'm Meg!

I have ben teaching in the classroom for over 15 years! I love teaching math and finding new and engaging ways to teach my students.

When I am not teaching you can find me at Target, at a baseball game (GO Nats!), binge watching fun shows, or snuggling with my cats!

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