Five Tips for Successful Guided Math Instruction

Five Tips for Successful Guided Math Instruction

Whether you are simply thinking about trying Guided Math in your classroom or are reflecting on how you might fine-tune the way you now use Guided Math, consider these five tips to make the most of the Guided Math framework.

  1. Include all seven of the Guided Math components in your math instruction.
    The seven components of Guided Math are as follows: an environment of numeracy, math warmups, whole-class instruction, small-group lessons, Math Workshop, math conferences, and assessment. While small-group lessons and Math Workshop are hallmarks of the Guided Math framework, all of the components when used together enhance mathematics instruction and help maximize student learning. Take time to reflect on your math block. Which of these components are already a part of your students’ daily routine? What can you do to build all of them into your classroom instruction?


  1. Use Guided Math to offer all students equitable rather than equal instruction.
    While providing equal instruction means teaching each and every student the same lesson, equitable instruction calls for lessons that offer all students what they need to be successful—constantly adjusting teaching in response to students’ immediate strengths and needs. Guided Math gives you the tools you need to discover precisely what your students know and can do and then to flexibly plan and teach lessons that target their immediate learning needs, thus shifting away from one-size-fits-all instruction.


  1. Develop an ongoing formative assessment system that gives you the information you need to plan effective instruction.
    The system doesn’t have to be very time consuming. For example, keep anecdotal notes to document what you observe during small-group lessons. Or, try using brief exit tickets the day prior to a lesson to determine if any students have gaps in the prerequisite knowledge and skills they need to be successful with that lesson. Having this information at hand allows you to group students who have similar learning needs together and to target those needs.


  1. Consider using the GUIDE model for Math Workshop.
    With the GUIDE workshop model, students work in just one workstation a day—completing all five stations in a week. This works because each workstation includes multiple tasks—some compulsory, some optional. Eliminating the rotation of students from station to station during a math block allows you to vary the amount of time you spend with students for small-group lessons. Assign students to work independently in heterogeneous groups at math workstations, but then meet with homogeneous groups for small-group lessons designed to address their specific learning needs. GUIDE workstation tasks do not need to be changed weekly. Because students work on a workstation game or task only one day during the week, those that are worthwhile and appropriate for students’ learning needs can remain in the workstation until you decide to replace them with other tasks that better support instruction or until your students tire of them.


  1. Plan workstation tasks to reinforce the mathematical content that students have already mastered, to promote computational fluency, or to offer opportunities for mathematical investigations.
    Avoid including tasks that require students to use the mathematical content they are currently learning. Before assigning tasks, be sure students have mastered the content sufficiently to be able to complete them independently, with accuracy, and without considerable confusion. Making use of math workshop for ongoing practice of the content students have already learned to firmly plants it in their permanent memories and deepens their understanding. This reduces the need for extensive review later prior to high-stakes testing.

Also, use this time to challenge your students with tasks that help them develop strategies to improve their computational fluency. These tasks offer students much needed practice, but can be completed successfully by students as they work independently.

Another type of task you might choose to include in workstations is the investigation of math-related issues. For example, a task might involve simple research on a mathematical topic; the gathering, display, and analysis of data; or real-life problem solving. Simple questions can inspire students’ mathematical thinking, such as How many different shapes can you see in the classroom? What is the most efficient way to seat students as they come into the lunchroom? What jobs require people to be able to find the area of a surface? Who is your favorite mathematician and why? Students can successfully complete these kids of tasks independently. Following these guidelines when planning math workstation tasks minimizes off-task behaviors, incorrectly completed work, and the interruption of small-group lessons by students who are unsure of what they are asked to do.


Author bio

Laney Sammons, M.L.S.

Laney Sammons, M.L.S., Education Consultant / Author

Laney Sammons, M.L.S, is a retired Teacher/Instructional Coach and currently acts as a Mathematics Education Consultant. She is the author of Guided Math, Strategies for Implementing Guided Math, Math Stretches: Building Conceptual Understanding, and Building Mathematical Comprehension.