As a classroom teacher for eighteen years, I notice students consistently struggle with certain math information and problem-solving, regardless of grade level or math curriculum. To support students with this, I created Math Tools. During small group instruction, introduce the math mats and graphic organizers to scaffold the learning to be hands-on. Once students understand […]
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]]>As a classroom teacher for eighteen years, I notice students consistently struggle with certain math information and problem-solving, regardless of grade level or math curriculum. To support students with this, I created Math Tools. During small group instruction, introduce the math mats and graphic organizers to scaffold the learning to be hands-on. Once students understand how to use a particular learning tool, it is also available during their independent workstation time.
Math Tools Resource Kits enhance small group instruction and support students during independent math station work. This comprehensive set includes essential learning tools like hands-on manipulatives, reference cards, and work mats to support student success.
I first introduced math tools during my teacher-led small group to support math learning in a more hands-on approach. This scaffolded approach allowed me to meet the needs of various levels of learners on the same content by leveling the playing field through the use of manipulatives and math mats. We know that math instruction is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Math Tools Kits allow teachers to scaffold math activities through hands-on and visual support. Along with the hands-on work mats, I added key information as reference cards supporting student learning and independent application of skills. As a jump start to solving, students would reference these cards and then apply the example or key information to their own work.
Math tools are also available to students during math workstations when they are expected to work independently. The result is students are equipped with the tools they need to solve various mathematical problems and are empowered to select the tools that will be most helpful. This profoundly impacts student independence and confidence out at math workstations.
First, math tools resource kits come in three different grade-level bands. Each grade level band has the tools, manipulatives, and reference cards essential to the standards for those grade levels. To read the list of specific manipulatives click the grade levels below.
Each grade-level kit includes all the grade-appropriate math manipulatives, reference cards, and graphic organizers that children in that grade level need.
Highlights
You can purchase these kits on Hand2Mind at the links below:
You can purchase these kits on Amazon at the links below:
If you are interested in more ready-to-teach kits with lessons for whole group and small group instruction for math, you can find grades K-5 both on Hand2Mind and Amazon.
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]]>In eighteen years of teaching, I could always depend on dice to bring interest and engagement to my classroom. With the nudge of a teacher bestie, we finally organized and created a way to share all 60 dice games in one simple download! 60 Dice Games Whether for learning or reward, dice have a dynamic […]
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]]>In eighteen years of teaching, I could always depend on dice to bring interest and engagement to my classroom. With the nudge of a teacher bestie, we finally organized and created a way to share all 60 dice games in one simple download!
Whether for learning or reward, dice have a dynamic pull on students. Combine the thrill of the unknown with crunching numbers, and it’s a win-win for math stations. We decided to put the dice games into four categories to make it easier to find the game you need when you need it. Wanting to use these in all grade levels, we built out all four operations.
Other than dice, no extra prep is required. Students at most will need scratch paper and pencil or dry erase board and marker. We have plenty of stations with mats and organizers, but we wanted this to be a grab-and-go resource that can be put out all year for any time of the day when students have time to crunch numbers in a fun way.
Here are ways we have used these dice games if you are wondering where they could fit into your day!
In the lower grades, we learn the games together and practice them in different ways such as teacher v. students, then transitioning to partnering up and practicing the same game together so we can all learn it without as much support, and finally putting those cards out at for an independent station. In the upper grades, we don’t have to provide as much scaffolding but certainly can if needed. The students have the card to tell how to play to refer to when needed.
The materials shown in the pictures are all linked below and in both the preview and the download, and all come from Amazon. Most need regular dice so you can start playing immediately unless you want to go all out and grab the organizer, dice, and plastic rings too!
Students love these games so much we decided to make a free gift tag download to share. This makes it so we can gift dice games to students at different times of the year. There’s a bonus game in the free download, but we also love to throw in the games we would love students to practice at home.
We know that play brings such valuable learning for students, so there’s no shortage of games in our library of resources. Here are two different posts below packed with learning games.
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]]>Today’s post focuses on our best resources to support structured literacy. We’ve gathered our most effective and practical resources for systematic and supportive instruction in literacy. Structured Literacy is the application of knowledge from the science of reading which teaches children to read in an evidence-based and systematic way. Phonics Focus Let’s begin with phonics instruction. […]
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]]>Today’s post focuses on our best resources to support structured literacy. We’ve gathered our most effective and practical resources for systematic and supportive instruction in literacy. Structured Literacy is the application of knowledge from the science of reading which teaches children to read in an evidence-based and systematic way.
Let’s begin with phonics instruction. Our Flip Up Phonics resource provides systematic practice and application of sound-spellings both in digital format and printable formats. This makes it easy to transition from teaching in whole group to having students be individually responsible for applying the skills through each new week of learning. Each flip up phonics set provides 10 activities in two formats, digital AND printable. Using digital slides as teaching slides makes for interactive and powerful whole group mini-lesson. Pair that with the flip up phonics printable booklets to make this one of our most effective and time-saving resources. To read more on flip up phonics, click the picture. To see the resource immediately, click Flip Up Phonics.
Next up in our structured literacy resource round up is word chains. This is one of our newer resources, but it has been a hit. A word chain is a series of words that each differ by one phoneme. Children are expected to spell a word. Then, each subsequent word changes by one phoneme (sound). Because they differ by sound, it may be more than one letter that is changed. Word chaining strengthens both phonics and phonemic awareness skills. Since children are changing one sound, they must constantly decide which sound is being changed in the word (this is a phoneme manipulation task). Additionally, with each new word, students must determine what grapheme is represented by that new phoneme.
Phonics and phonemic awareness are working together to move the child forward. These word chains can be done on or off the provided booklets. Using the provided word chains, you can call out the ladder of word changes as students record on a whiteboard or the more structured paper approach. To see more on word chains, click the picture below. To go right to the resource, click Word Chains.
Word families, also known as phonograms, are groups of words that follow the same spelling pattern. For example, cap, map, tap lap, gap, and rap are all spelled with a beginning consonant and -ap. Because it is more challenging for students to isolate individual phonemes in CVC words (t-o-p or h-o-t), word families provide a more accessible and more natural pathway for students to practice phonological blending as they begin to learn about short vowels (r-an or p-an). Teaching word families also helps quickly expand students’ vocabulary in word recognition and spelling. If students try to memorize a list of unrelated CVC words, they are limited to learning only those few words. When students are introduced to the patterns of word families, they suddenly have access to many words that fit into each word family.
This post shares about our Word Families Booklets. From short vowels to digraphs, blends, and r-controlled and into long vowels and vowel teams, these word families books help students expand student word recognition, spelling, and vocabulary.
We also have Phonics posters and Phonics tracers similar to our focus on sets of word families above. These posters and tracers focus on phonics rules or patterns in words. We love using both in binders with page protectors so students can read or trace and read all of the previously learned word families. It’s like a portable sound wall. The posters also display learning in the classroom or as a focus each week. This example has the phonics posters above and the sound wall below.
We have monthly
Finally, we will end with a bridge from structured literacy resources, to providing the ‘write’ climate for our budding authors. This post will share effective writing resources for the K-4 classroom.
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]]>This post will cover simple ways to collect data in a math classroom. Math Data Tracking should be two things: simple and effective. Our goal in bringing these ideas and resources to light is to provide a simple solution that improves math instruction and learning in the process. Math Data Tracking The first layer to […]
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]]>This post will cover simple ways to collect data in a math classroom. Math Data Tracking should be two things: simple and effective. Our goal in bringing these ideas and resources to light is to provide a simple solution that improves math instruction and learning in the process.
The first layer to tracking math learning and progress is to track our instruction through planning, grouping, and anecdotal notes. Here are examples from our Guided Math Binder of what that looks like. These planning and tracking sheets can be kept in a binder, on a clipboard, or spiral bound. Keep it simple is our motto. Whatever you know you’ll easily integrate into your routine.
There are four sections to the Guided Math Binder. Each one provides different templates that can be printed or typed to help track the four different areas of math instruction. The Guided Math Binder provides a choice and range of different templates so you can find the ones that speak to your note-taking heart.
For those times when we want to assess a specific math skill or do a quick check to guide instruction, we have single sheet skills checks. These quick skills checks provide data for both guiding instruction and student mastery. Below are examples of different grade levels of skills checks. Each grade level comes with a list of standards and 45 quick digital or printable skills checks.
If you’ve visited our blog before, you likely know we provide Guided Math resources and professional development. In our Guided Math resources, for each topic unit, we have pre-assessments and post assessments. These can be used to group students, guide instruction, and track student mastery in a more formal fashion. If you own any of the Guided Math units for any grade levels K-5, you also own these assessments.
For formal progress monitoring, data tracking, and standards checklists, our
Multiple lesson probes are provided for each standard K-2 for the different math strands.
Finally, as a simple, fast, and effective way to check the academic temperature, we created Exit Tickets for grades K-5. These tickets are a terrific evaluation tool at the end of a lesson or teacher-led small group because they provide instant data on the day’s learning.
For more ways to stay proactive for student needs during Guided Math, here’s a post about differentiation.
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]]>Mastering our math minutes for Guided Math means choosing the best schedule to fit the needs of the learners in the room. This post will look at five successful Guided Math Schedules you can implement for your Math Workshop Block. Guided Math Schedules When considering the design of guided math time, I consider one main […]
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]]>Mastering our math minutes for Guided Math means choosing the best schedule to fit the needs of the learners in the room. This post will look at five successful Guided Math Schedules you can implement for your Math Workshop Block.
When considering the design of guided math time, I consider one main criterion: How can I best create the math experience to fit the needs of the learners in the room?
Here’s a look at five sample schedules for the guided math block. Typically, the K-5 classroom has 45-90 minutes for math each day. This can range from state to state, grade to grade, and whether you are compartmentalized or self-contained. If finding the schedule to match your minutes has been a struggle, hopefully, we can put an end to that today, equipping you with a schedule design that excites and inspires the teaching and learning in your room!
This first schedule is for our teacher-types who love to see all groups daily and have plenty of resources for running stations daily too. This teacher likely has at least 60 minutes or more for math.
Monday – Friday
This guided math schedule works well for a shorter math block or for a departmentalized teacher but is certainly not limited to those two situations. The idea here is switching back and forth from a whole group instruction day to a math workshop day with teacher-led small groups and student workstations.
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
This schedule wraps up every week with a nice little bow making sure to tie up loose ends and start fresh on Mondays. Terrific for teachers who love mixed ability grouping and pulling kids to the table rather than having rotations, this schedule provides a way to have students make up missed station work and meet with the teacher for a work check.
Monday-Thursday
Friday
Schedule 4: The Long and Short of It
Perhaps the most flexible of the four example schedules, this schedule ebbs and flows with timing and instruction as needed. This one is a mixture of the previous three schedules.
Monday/Wednesday
Tuesday/Thursday
Friday
You’ll pave your own way to your math block bliss! Finding what works for you may take trial and error, but you are up for the challenge. A pinch of this idea, a dash of that one, and you are formulating the best fit for your math minutes. The framework for guided math allows for flexibility, function, and phenomenal learning. There is no “right way.” The schedules above are just a guide, but you ultimately make magic when you create the schedule that is just right for you, your students, their needs, and your math environment. I can’t wait to hear about your success!
Before ending today, I want to share a post called, Leveling Up your Math Block. Whatever schedule works best for you, you can find resources and ideas to take each component to the next level.
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]]>Monthly classroom slides are a collection of themed teaching slides to use for organization, transitions, and management of a classroom throughout the day. The first set of monthly classroom slides we have created is our January slides. Monthly Classroom Slides Adding seasonal fun to key moments in the school day creates interest and engages students […]
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]]>Monthly classroom slides are a collection of themed teaching slides to use for organization, transitions, and management of a classroom throughout the day. The first set of monthly classroom slides we have created is our January slides.
Adding seasonal fun to key moments in the school day creates interest and engages students to focus on the present objective or task. Because these slides change monthly, students do not lose interest or enthusiasm for the routine.
Customizing these slides involves typing your text right on the background with the given text boxes. We even have 11 sets of timers that can be inserted into the slides for further management of your day. Below is a list of slides included in our monthly classroom slides sets.
If you want to integrate more digital interactions into your regularly scheduled program, we will highlight resources and posts to get you what you are looking for! Our digital math, literacy, and writing lessons are always standards-aligned and have high interest for maximum engagement and learning potential.
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]]>Let’s jump into a packed post of January learning and resources to make returning to school as fresh as the fallen snow…kidding I live in south Texas. Regardless, I have a big January resource roundup to ease back into school with exciting new lessons. JANUARY LEARNING RESOURCES Below, you’ll find all subject areas for K-2 […]
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]]>Let’s jump into a packed post of January learning and resources to make returning to school as fresh as the fallen snow…kidding I live in south Texas. Regardless, I have a big January resource roundup to ease back into school with exciting new lessons.
Below, you’ll find all subject areas for K-2 so feel free to jump to just what you need by scrolling the headings and photos. I will describe each January item with linked pictures to locate resources easily.
From New Years’ Celebrations to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have a month of writing lessons and student templates. Below are the new updates in the January Writing Units for New Year’s goal setting and a How To writing lesson about building a snowman.
The Lit Kit is the real MVP of the literacy standards each month. PACKED with important skills but engaging as can be! The Lit Kit has a winter theme for January in grades K-2 and here are some of the example activities you’ll find to fill up those literacy lesson plans and stations.
Kindergarten January Lit Kit
First Grade January Lit Kit
Second Grade January Lit Kit
If you are specifically on the hunt for winter-themed workstations, we have 24 math and 24 literacy workstations for each grade level K-2. Grab your color-coded winter-themed manipulatives and prepare to hear the students’ squeals of joy.
Kindergarten Winter Math and Literacy
First Grade Winter Math and Literacy
Second Grade Winter Math and Literacy
Each volume of our science journals provides interactive activities for students which fit right into a composition book. A terrific record of scientific learning for the year. Volume 2 focuses on states of matter and volume 6 focuses on weather.
If you’ve visited our blog before, you know how much we love science booklets for learning. January provides such terrific opportunities to explore important understanding in the area of science. Six different science and social studies topics fit the January and winter theme!
Jump into all things states of matter with this adorable snowman science booklet.
Adorable umbrella booklets hold all of our weather science learning!
Paired with our January Writing on Arctic Animals, this Arctic Animals booklet is a homerun of fun.
When January hits, all things penguins come out to play. A wonderful way to support non-fiction writing with high-interest Antarctic friends is our Penguin Science Unit.
For a study of influential people and Dr. MLK, Jr., we have our All About MLK, Jr. booklet.
Our Owl Science and Nocturnal Animals unit is a real hoot. No matter when you decide to add this to your studies, it is a crowd-pleaser.
Whew, we made it friends. But I can’t leave you here. I have to share even more learning to keep our spirits high.
The second half of the school year is when students begin to really synthesize and blossom with the information you’ve been pouring into them. For this reason, I want to share how to create the ‘Write Climate’ in the classroom to get your students writing to their fullest potential!
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]]>Number Talks are a powerful way to develop both number sense and computational fluency. There is no prep involved for the teacher, making it a perfect math warm-up for a busy math block. This post will share universal procedures and practices for getting the most out of number talks for math warm-ups pre-K-5. A Number […]
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]]>Number Talks are a powerful way to develop both number sense and computational fluency. There is no prep involved for the teacher, making it a perfect math warm-up for a busy math block. This post will share universal procedures and practices for getting the most out of number talks for math warm-ups pre-K-5.
A Number Talk is a five- to fifteen-minute discussion in which students verbally share their mathematical thinking as the teacher records the process on the board for everyone to see. They provide structured practice for mental math and promote the value in using mental math to compute. Number Talks teach the importance of being flexible with numbers and using a variety of strategies for computation.
-Sherry Parrish Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies K-5
First, let’s discuss some universal procedures for engaging in a number talk no matter the grade level of students. Students are gathered together in front of the board or screen to view a visual prompt.
The teacher displays the prompt, and students begin thinking about how to solve it. They come to an answer, but they also know they had a procedure for getting there or used a strategy to compute mentally. During this time, the class is quietly processing, and students utilize the universal hand signals for math talks.
Once most of the students have the signal against their chest showing they have an answer or multiple strategies for an answer, the teacher begins the discussion.
First, the teacher will take answers for the problem from all students. All answers are considered probable at this point. If there is more than one answer shared, the teacher lists them on the board to refer back to for checking thinking.
Next, the teacher will call on students to share the problem-solving strategy. While the students are sharing, the teacher records the solution method on the board or screen. Even if the strategy is incorrect, it is a valuable part of the process and is recorded.
As the class continues this process, students agree, add to, and revise their thinking in the meaningful and safe learning environment established through this routine.
Below are resources ranging from pre-K to fifth grade for number talks. Each focuses on being flexible with numbers and having a variety of strategies for computation. Even though a certain grade level band is highlighted, it is okay to explore what would best fit your students’ needs, even if out of the indicated grade levels.
First, we begin with number representations for 0-10. This allows students to build meaning and understanding around a number and a value. It also opens the door to seeing number relationships. First, an example is provided, followed by some of the different slides students would interact with.
Number Talks Same or Different expands to a greater range of numbers, skills, and concepts. Students will identify what they know about each representation and then share how they are the same or different.
Moving into grades 2-3, Number Talks Strategies for Solving continues the learning through even more opportunities for open-ended math discussions.
Continuing our complexity of concepts, Number Talks Strategies for Solving Grades 3-5, students focus on multiplication and division concepts, models, and problem-solving. From there, things expand into place value, decimals, area, perimeter, volume, fractions, lines and angles, geometry, and algebraic reasoning. This set of number talks has 165 slides of learning!
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]]>Differentiation is one of the leading concerns and needs for classrooms today. Teachers understand that teaching one math lesson directly to a roomful of students in one sitting does not meet all of the varied learning needs present. But what should differentiation look like day to day that is sustainable for a busy teacher? What […]
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]]>Differentiation is one of the leading concerns and needs for classrooms today. Teachers understand that teaching one math lesson directly to a roomful of students in one sitting does not meet all of the varied learning needs present. But what should differentiation look like day to day that is sustainable for a busy teacher? What are the best ways to seamlessly integrate differentiation and meet the needs of students with diverse abilities? This post shares five ways to differentiate during math stations.
We all experience the great dilemma during whole group instruction in math. We teach a lesson, and we are torn on whether to push forward, knowing some students need more instruction and practice on the content while also wanting to stall and reteach, knowing some students need to advance to more challenging content immediately. Guided Math mini-lessons and workstations allow for the best of both worlds. We can keep on track with our general math mini-lessons but provide much-needed differentiated instruction and student practice during small group workstations. Let’s break it all down!
Before diving into five ways to differentiate, it’s important to know our goals for differentiation. Let’s refresh our understanding of the tiers of intervention. I do this because educators tend to think of Response to Intervention (RTI) and Tier 3 learners when the word differentiation is mentioned. While we come by this thinking honestly, it’s been on our plates for over a decade, we will address all levels of students through these five ways to differentiate during math workstations. All students have strengths and gaps in learning. Targeting all students’ needs through the same differentiation techniques is rewarding, and the entire class benefits.
When planning our guided math student groups or math workstation groups, we want to consider differentiation strategically. In our Guided Math PD, we discuss different ways to group students for math workstations highlighting the pros and cons of each. No matter how we may group students for their workstations, we want to create a homogenous group at the teacher-led small group table. Not only is it important to strategically group students for their time out at math stations away from the teacher, but we must also consider how we will meet with students in targeted instructional groups during math workstations.
While mixed ability grouping is a positive in cooperative learning situations, we don’t want to pair students from absolute opposite ends of ability level. Research shows students do best even in mixed groupings when their groups consist of developmental and ability levels that are not extremely distant from their own. While we hope our high achievers will scaffold and support our students still approaching learning targets, research shows that it happens more frequently when students have more academic common ground. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t create mixed-ability groups containing tier three and tier one students. However, I would do so while also considering how their personalities will work together in a math activity. The goal is to group students who work well in academic situations and can function independently of direct instruction from a teacher or aide during a math center.
Designing the student experience is one of my favorite teacher roles. What do I want students to do during their math station time? We already know we will spend time meeting with students in a teacher-led small group station, but what else will students experience during their math workstations? The research on math workstations is clear. Math workstations provide practice of previously learned skills and concepts. New skills are not present in workstations other than the teacher-led small group. Students should be able to recognize and understand the math skill being asked and apply that math skill. The purpose of this time is to provide refinement of skills through repeated practice in many formats.
Not only do we want to provide practice to students during math stations, but we also want to vary that practice to hit on different formats and modalities. This means students visit a variety of different age-appropriate workstations. Below, I share my math STACK system for workstations. While you don’t need five workstations, these can provide ideas for creating a well-rounded math experience for students. No matter where students fall in the RTI tiers, a well-rounded math experience will allow varied practice for all levels of learners.
The STACK stations are (teacher-led) Small Group, Technology, Application Station, Create or Communicate Math Understanding, and Kinesthetic Hands-on Math.
The descriptions for each station are ideas and would not all be happening at once. Here’s how simple you can have your setup. I sometimes use buckets, bins, or in this example, a simple three-drawer system. The teacher-led small group is happening with me, so I keep my Guided Math Small Group lessons (not pictured) at my teacher table. The technology round is Digital Guided Math eLessons so those are not pictured either. I just push those out to the students in Google or on SeeSaw. The only thing I have to have out for students are the three stations you see below: Apply, Create, and Kinesthetic.
Let’s take a look inside the drawers.
The apply station is independent practice. It follows the new learning closely but not today’s lesson because some students will visit this before seeing me in a small group lesson.
The create station is the math journal entry. Students work in their math journals for this round.
The kinesthetic drawer holds math center games. These are hands-on math activities.
At the end of this post, there will be grade-level links to math STACK stations if you are interested.
Having a variety of workstations is step one of differentiation, but providing more targeted activities within those workstations is where we reach our Tier 2 and Tier 3 students. A simple assignment of a color level to your groups will allow you to serve better their math learning needs out at stations. While I may have five groups, I only have three color levels of activities out at workstations. These three color assignments align with general above-level, on-level, and approaching-level labels. This means I may have more than one group pulling from the same color level out at their stations.
Manipulatives and math tools are very helpful in leveling the playing field for all ability levels during workstations. Math manipulatives provide hands-on learning and skill understanding. Providing manipulatives can make a more difficult activity accessible to a less experienced learner.
Below, these three math third grade math center activities on fractions are made much more concrete using fraction pieces, blocks, and models. Using manipulatives allows students with limited fraction understanding to create models and understand the values of different fractions.
Determine the missing numerator
Compare fractions using the comparison symbols
Math workstation is from Stations by Standard
Create equivalent fractions
Likewise, math tools and mats can provide problem-solving help or information for reference when working mathematically. First introduced in the teacher-led small group, students learn the procedures and types of tools to reference while working mathematically. Then when out at workstations, students have their own community set of math tools they can grab when working.
Vocabulary and Strategy Cards from Intervention Solution and Standard Practice
This example shows the part-part-whole mat students can use at any grade level to solve for missing addends or subtrahends.
Math is all about the process of solving. How do we take a problem and find a solution? What steps will we take to solve? Sometimes students are overwhelmed just by knowing what process to take to solve. This is where strategies swoop in to save the day. In day-to-day math instruction, strategies are introduced and taught explicitly. These strategies are then prominently displayed so students can easily refer to them for problem-solving. We ask students to name the strategy and steps for solving as part of our math warm-ups and small group instruction. Tier One students (everyone) will be taught the basic math strategies that we use most frequently for the skills and concepts of our grade level. But in the teacher-led small group, I can scaffold the math strategies to fit the needs of the students in front of me as students work through their problems.
Math Word Wall Vocabulary by Grade Levels
Since we used fractions as our example earlier in this post, here are three examples of strategies cards pulled from our grades 3rd-5th math strategies visuals. Students get comfortable naming the strategy and then showing it as they work. This post shows more resources for math strategies instruction.
Below, these math strategies were pulled from the standard practice resource. Their small size makes them easy to use on a focus board.
For most of our students, the above differentiation provides effective math instruction and practice to bring students to confident mastery. For those few students who struggle to respond to differentiation and targeted instruction within the regular guided math day, or they have all of their skills down and need enrichment, it is time for more intense targets and learning goals. Enter the intervention solution! This math intervention program allows teachers to effectively provide differentiated intervention, with progress monitoring built right in. Whether you have built-in time for intervention or you want to allow students extra time and practice, this resource provides differentiated tools to support both teachers and students. You find the lesson probes aligned to the standards. Likewise, you’ll have the tracking and progress monitoring tools built right in for you.
If you are ready to provide a differentiated experience for students in grades K-5, we are here to help! Our resources are vertically aligned and standards-based, which makes differentiating easy. We can provide a lower- or higher-level skill with ease of mind. To search all math activities by grade level, simply click your grade below.
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]]>Every teacher struggles with independence during workstations to some degree during the school year. Although fostering independence is a universal pain point for running math workstations, most teachers take this struggle as a frustrating failure. Let’s shake off that teacher guilt right now! Rather than dwelling on the lack of independence, we can analyze what […]
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]]>Every teacher struggles with independence during workstations to some degree during the school year. Although fostering independence is a universal pain point for running math workstations, most teachers take this struggle as a frustrating failure. Let’s shake off that teacher guilt right now! Rather than dwelling on the lack of independence, we can analyze what is happening and put solutions in the place where the chaos appears. This post will focus on how to foster independence during math stations.
There are many factors involved in why students may be off task or “lost” during math centers, but through all of the grade levels and reasons, we can identify some common threads and then attach solutions. Before we dive into those problems and solutions, I want to start by being vulnerable and share that even after 18 years of teaching math with the guided math structure, I expect to address the same problems I share in this post. You are not alone in dealing with this issue. It’s an ongoing part of running workstations. The great news is that students benefit greatly from these solutions in all areas of the school day because we train them to be autonomous problem-solvers.
Even after we carve out some time to teach the stations, some students or groups may ask, “what do we do here?” immediately, our blood pressure rises, and our hair begins to stand up on end. When students are not immediately settling into a station, we can identify this as a Station Start-Up Problem. Identifying the problem helps us categorize it and provide a solution.
Just as we sometimes feel anxious when we release students to go off to stations, they also may be anxious about handling the responsibility of being more independent and working with others around the room. Without clear strategies for Station Start-Up, we will likely see some floundering about during these moments before students ultimately settle in and get that productive hum going. The following are ways to fix the station start-up problem.
Below is just one example from our fifth grade decimals stations showing how we use a photo to demonstrate the expectations of the station further.
To search all math activities by grade level, simply click your grade below.
Students may know the procedures of a station, but the content stops them in their tracks. We immediately see that they have tried to start working knowing what is expected, but then are trying to get help from you or others around them and are generally frustrated and off task or just quietly staring but not engaged in the task. We can identify this as the Skill Standstill.
This problem can be fixed by running back to the research on math workstations. When we put out content at our math stations, we want to build a well-rounded math experience but at the top of that experience is refining skills previously taught. This means that we are not putting out new content at stations but rather allowing students to practice and apply skills they are already familiar with. It takes hundreds of repetitions for students to gain automaticity, accuracy, and flexibility with math concepts.
This task is one that we sense as it slowly builds through the station round or time. Our “spidey sense” as teachers kicks in, and we sense a level of restlessness is beginning to brew among our stations. If left unaddressed, we find ourselves as the new Mayor of Math Mayhem. Below are three ways to address the problem.
Fast finishers are inevitable when we task students independently. Every class has students who work not only quickly, but with high-quality work. This is to be expected when we have a couple of students who require more during math stations. When just under half the class finishes early, and mayhem ensues, we need to look at more diagnostic solutions. We will lovingly identify this problem as Fast Finisher Fiasco.
We all know that we have a range of developmental abilities present in every class every year. So, we all likely have a couple of students who cannot pace to most of the class or to the tasks and rounds we assign during workstations. I lovingly call this problem the Molasses Mathematicians. This refers to students who are giving their best and trying hard but cannot pace. I notice these students because they are stuck at the same station consistently far after the timer rings to rotate. We most definitely need to address this problem because we want every student to experience math workstations to their fullest in a positive manner.
To search all math activities by grade level, simply click your grade below.
Even as we implement solutions, we will experience highs and lows during different cycles of content and weeks of learning. This is perfectly normal when we are running a classroom. Our classrooms have around twenty young mathematicians with different developmental and ability levels. Routines might be a part of some students’ daily home life, but not all of our students have structure and expectations outside the classroom. Grace for any level of student effort and our efforts should be heavily dosed. Ultimately, we keep our eyes focused on the goal of an autonomous productive workstation time.
This autonomy allows us to meet with students in teacher-led small groups to address the important skills and concepts for our grade level. By doing this, we ensure students have the highest potential for acquiring the skills needed to be successfully empowered mathematicians throughout their school careers. It won’t happen immediately, but we continually set students up for future success by providing solutions to make students independent during math workstations.
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