I prefer to teach math in small groups. I begin each math lesson with everyone on the carpet as I introduce the concept. Shortly after, students rotate through three math centers in 15-minute blocks of time:
- Guided math with the teacher
- Independent math practice
- Math games
The order of rotation is super important. I have my students leveled and sorted into math groups (Related: An Easy Way to Level Students for Math Groups). Circle and square groups always go from guided math with me to independent practice. That way they get the support first and then rotate into an independent center to apply their learning directly after working with me.
The triangle group begins with independent practice because they are typically ready to go after the whole group lesson. I assign them word problems, then when they come to me, we review and I answer questions they may have. This rotation pattern seems to work well for my various levels of students.
My math centers rotations look like this:
- Circle group: Guided math with teacher, independent practice, math games
- Square group: Math games, guided math with teacher, independent practice
- Triangle group: Independent practice, math games, guided math with teacher
Math Center #1: Guided Math With the Teacher
This is where the real differentiation magic happens! When I work with each group, I get to dive deep and pinpoint where the struggles, misconceptions, and strengths are. Each small group works on the day’s math objective with me. With my small groups, I can answer questions more directly than during whole group instruction and truly focus on the individual needs of each child. During this time, we are working on problems from the curriculum, but I also have mini-whiteboards out so students can show me their work as they are working through problems.
Math Center #2: Independent Practice
At this center, students have math problems to complete independently. There may be task cards or other independent practice problems from their workbooks for them to work on. With my Digital Math Slides resource line, there are interactive student practice slides that allow students to explore a concept with fun and engaging tasks. Simply assign a couple of slides and a meaningful independent activity is ready to go.
Math Center #3: Games
Yes, math can definitely be fun! There are all sorts of math games your students can play. The key here is to choose a game that is already familiar. I like to introduce my math games whole class at the start of each new unit. We play together and I let the students know that they will be seeing these games again throughout the unit at the games center.
You want students to be able to play independently, without taking you away from the group you’re working with. The goal is to reinforce the math concepts you are learning that day.
One game I really love playing with students is called Places, Please. It’s easily adaptable for different grade levels. It provides a simple and fun way to practice place value and number sense each day.
At the end of math small group time, you should have a solid grasp on how well each student understands the day’s objective.
Questions or ideas to share? Please leave a comment on this blog post!