# Math Centers and Guided Math Groups FREE Tips Video

hi my name is jamie from not-so and be teacher and i'm really excited to make this video for you all about how i do math centers and guided math groups mike honest um I have done several Facebook lives about math centers and it is a topic that I found teachers are really looking for some advice and some answers so I'm gonna share with you a whole lot of ideas for making math centers extremely meaningful for your students and very low prep easy to plan for you so let's just go ahead and jump right in alright for me math always starts whole group I have a daily whole group lesson this is how my math walk starts guys I would use your math curriculum I get a lot of people saying are you gonna write a curriculum I'm probably not um use what you already have and less those require you to anyways so I think use what you have knowing that you are going to be able to deepen their understanding later through centers if you do not have math curriculum I've used engage New York which is just like Eureka and then H New York is free online so do a little Google search industry online I think it's a great curriculum there's a ton of stuff in there more than you need but at least you know you have everything you need so I would use my math curriculum I do a daily lesson I just go right straight through my curricula hi here's the thing though gimme quick you should be spending an hour on your whole group lesson here's what you need to think about you cannot teach at the pace of your lowest learner I think it's kind of a habit that we have because we see a confused face and so we explain it again yeah we do another example but if it's just your Lois Lerner's look to a little not sure but the online learners seem to be catching on they don't have to be proficient yet but they seem to be catching on then you have to move on your Louis learners will see that you are going to help them later they don't have to be stressed out about it because you are going to be meeting with them later and you will be able to teach it at their pace when you meet with them so you need a cruise right through this lesson teach the new skill quickly showing it a couple of examples I don't use I don't do students manipulatives during my whole group as long as I can I mean there are just some times where it just needs to happen but 99% of the time my students are active a manipulator holger it takes a whole bunch of time to pass them out and explain how to use them and there's always a few kids who are not using them properly and there's always a few minutes on the floor at the end of the day this is a time waster but don't get me wrong I think manipulatives are amazing and I think every man should be using them I'm just just using them during small group because they think it takes less time and I'm right there to watch and guide them so we can make sure that they really are understanding the skill and using the manipulative to help them sometimes I use a manipulative to model the problem on the board so if you have magnetic base ten blocks or magnetic fractions it is those are handy but keep this whole group lesson more mini I have 30 minutes to do my whole group lesson so I divided out 20 minutes of teaching the new skill and ten minutes where we do the problem set or the practice sheet that comes with the curriculum I only give them the ten minutes if we don't finish it we don't finish it is okay and in fact most curriculum is the problem sheet it starts off with easier problems and gradually gets more complex so if my learners are still struggling a little bit up at the top that's gonna make them take longer which means they're probably not ready for the more complex problems think about using those problems in your small group it's okay if they don't finish every single number on the problem set what's important is that they get through a couple successfully and if they don't get through a couple successfully that's okay too because that tells you exactly where you need to start in your small group hi so this is my my Holger I easily took how I used to teach math before centers I I still do all that just condensed it and if you talk a lot like I do practice a couple of these lessons at home with your stuffed animal so that you can catch yourself when you start repeating yourself okay teach your students certain procedures that you always use so if you're always doing a turn in talk teach them a procedure so that there's a quick clap and then they do it so you're not over and over how to say turn to your partner I want partner a to say this I don't partner B to do this that takes up a lot of time so really practice it and see where you're spending time that maybe is unnecessary okay and don't feel guilty about going fast even if it's not the pace your lowest learners need they you are gonna come in and you are going to reach out right where they're at which is so much more important than a really long whole group lesson that can lead to behavior problems all right let's talk about the centers that I use in my classroom and why I chose to use these particular centers first of all some of you may notice that in my listeners there's no acronym I know Lana I'm going to use the math acronym R and there's a few others you know what I tried I actually I love the look of it it's cool but I found I was trying to create centers to match an acronym instead of just using the center's I knew only students need it so I don't have an acronym and the reality is calling it exactly what it is is less confusing to my students too I want to talk about the very important center the most important it's a teacher this is where your level two small groups come back and meet with you so you will need to level these groups I love them I start off by leveling them with early practice sheets were doing in class maybe their first math assessment it helps you to decide but you can constantly change them there's really no reason that you couldn't move kids around whenever you need to because reality is a kid who does really well in multiplication still might struggle in geometry so you may need to move them around a little as you move through the units or just as they grow as mathematicians raffia what I do to keep my groups labeled if I put laminated poster up on a cabinet and they have the group names on it and underneath it tells exactly which centers they do each day and then I just laminate that and use Expo marker write their names in fact I have those for free on my blog and it's part of my math Center blog series I'm gonna put a link in the description of this video it's not serious for you so you can grab that freebie all right now what do we do during the teacher I've got this leveled group what are we gonna do guys keep this super simple I see a lot of teachers who get all these different resources and and they're photocopying and they're cutting in there laminating and all these things I was one of those teachers at one point and it was is maddening trying to come up with different activities every single week too much part-time and my students actually don't need that the number one can do during meet the teacher as my students have individual whiteboards and I give them problems from either the problem set that we just completed that day or the day before it's okay to go back especially if your students need it I mean if I don't meet with my groups every day I'm sometimes doing yesterday's first and then when they master that small group today's skill grab some problems from the prop sheet you can also grab some problems from their homework sheet they're not gonna actually know and your goal is to make sure they understand the scale so if you've already gone through one of the homework problems you can always let them cross it off and you will be their very best friend so I take those problems and I can give the kids manipulatives so we might start with manipulatives we solved the problem of manipulative depends on the scale I mean subtractions recur pancreas manipulatives for a while then when you're doing well with the manipulatives we can move on to whiteboard we can draw a picture we need to we can eventually get to where it's just numbers if the group is ready for that it might be my higher groups who move past manipulatives faster whereas my lower good thing always need manipulatives or pictures and that's fine so whiteboards with problems that came straight from your curriculum it's awesome if you don't have curriculum that you can use this form you can use task cards but I wouldn't even photocopy the recording sheet for students I just do it on a wing board that way it's less prep for you and you can decide like if you do the first problem they get it really classes I'm gonna challenge skip quite a ways down to something that's a little more complex I observe my students and base the number of problems we're gonna do together and the complexity of the problems on how they are doing okay so it is very differentiated because I watch them they struggled we work together we do another one we work together they're starting to get it now they start working just as their group I watch them and I change directions when they need me to this is why it's okay to go faster you're hooker you're right there you can really help them they're in groups of hopefully maybe maybe no more than six or seven if you can manage it that would be an ideal okay another thing I do like to do to meet the teachers not everyday but I do like to use interactive notebooks during my me the teacher time this is a resource that I've created I have in our notebook activities for every single skill that a third-grade teacher would be using I like to use these as an assessment so we have covered this skill whole group they've had practice sheets and horn sheets we just cover we've covered it in small group with manipulatives and whiteboards now I can give them this activity it's a quick cut you'll notice I don't do I don't do interactive notebooks that have crazy cuts and stuff that's not meaningful to the bath they now could do this and I'm sitting there at the table small group time and as they do it I just kind of keep an eye and I'll ask them can you flip that flat for me you can flip it up I can quick see is the answer right and it's just a quick check this group has this scale we've got it can move on or it's more like we're not doing so good let's just close the notebook can get those manipulatives back out right that's what I meet the teacher and it's super super important time that I'm spending with my students all right another one of my centers is technology I really hope that you are blessed with enough technology for a small group I was blessed with some Chromebooks only in a for small group I was not one to one my school did require us to use a program called I ready it is a paid program I think the math portion of it is really beneficial other programs that you could use are like Moby max it's really great in Cardiff a lot of people who using big prodigy so do a little research on a half earning computer program where you should use your practicing skills that are great level appropriate tip ax um splash math you have iPad splash math is a good app where they're practicing skills and what I like about a Technology Center is being able to get a report as the teacher this holds my students accountable during this Center because I can see what lessons they accomplished and oftentimes like what their score was or whether they passed it and so this holds them accountable and it lets me know where they're at it's especially handy if your program changes based on whether they're getting it wrong or not some some schools pay for I excel there are free programs out there like I said I used Moby next sometimes can my kids all those when I was like about quite a bit too so technology and I do I'm a kid sit at their desk with the Chromebook to complete this my kids like the center it's spring time and so they like that but it's also really valuable because they're working on the skills that we need to work on class if you use Eureka or engage New York during your technology center you can have your kiddos use earn ze:a RN it goes right along with the curriculum and even if you don't use a curriculum it might be something you should check out all right third Center that my students will do I call it independent some people call it hands-on this is the center where many students will be writing and turning in a case to me so these centers are centers that I've actually made I have bundles for 3rd and 4th grade and I'm currently working on 2nd and 5th grade with Debbie Watson from the third grade Cod and Amanda will from the primary Gauss so we have a few of the second-grade sets up and few of the fifth grade sets up and we will continue to put those up so you can use them this year but here's what it kind of looks like this is the box I would keep on my shelf or in my cabinet with the centers when they're not being used but there were ten different centers they are engaging hands-on include things like task cards spinners rolling the dice color coding themes matching lots of matching and sorting so they're there interesting my kids they like them they don't really really don't complain about doing these so it's much better than just like worksheets it has a recording book for old ten of the centers based on the type of Center her schedule I use which I'm going to talk about shortly this booklet and all Tim centers take my students approximately a month three to four weeks so I have a piece to hold them accountable and to grade because they do need scores in my grade book but I'm not reading every single week and I am NOT photograph photocopying new recording machines every single week also the center's look similar for every unit this is the fraction one the multiplication one's gonna look similar the division they all look similar so I spend time at the beginning of the year teaching my students out of them EP centers and there's actually blog post about that in my map and center blog post series and I don't have to spend a lot of time throughout the year it's not like every Monday I have to tell them what they're gonna do their independent center now they know they know that they are gonna do these centers and the consistency means that they actually get better and better completing these accurately and it seems class time alright so there are ten centers these are all like put together right now but I separate out the ten different centers and this is actually like what it looks like in my classroom I just have this little tub this little creek it was 99 cents from Walmart it's miniature it's hard to tell in the video but it is miniature and I use either these pencil oops pencil pouches or the little plastic and below pouches to store each Center so there's ten of them but you can see I label them with the center number I let students do them in any order that they wish and then they can just put the answers in there recording book they can take these and put them on the floor put them on their dash square but they like to do them since only a small group of students are using them at one time so only maybe six kids using it one time and there's ten centers I have to make multiple copies of the center's there's always one there that they haven't needed that they can go grab and do some of the sinners take more time than others and that will hey because when they finish their Center they go put it back and grab another one as long as they still have time as long as I haven't said it's time to switch rotation they can keep grabbing another Center and completing them now my prior learners are going to finish those independent centers earlier than my lower learner's they're going to complete all ten a little bit quicker right so I do have a fast finisher activity I keep this fastest finisher to be out for quite a while be our unit so we can have one for rounding one for elapsed time when for fractions etc it is a math menu when students have completed all ten of their centers you can go grab them out menu set so let me knock menu is set hacks side dishes entrees and desserts and my students know that they must start with side dishes then they must do an entree and then they can do the dessert so and I even wrote on for them so they would know first and there's no excuses they choose one of these activities to complete their warm-up activities so this is my addition and subtraction I believe it's additional instruction math menu and so one of the questions has list the steps you can take to check to make sure the answer to an addition problem is accurate these are higher order thinking my thought is by the fast finishers from independent manners are probably be my higher learners most the time and so these are higher-order thinking questions that are going to ask them to dig a bit deeper on the topics we're learning about show two different strategies you can use when adding two-digit numbers which strategy is your favorite and why say muster side dish then they can choose entree these are for like word problems they have to show picture and explain their thinking they often allow them to be a little creative you are planning a party in $100 to spend choose items from the list to buy many of each item will you buy how much will you spend in total and it gives them prices for ice cream pizza cupcakes juice boxes balloons and so they can plan their party out with $100 they have they're gonna have to tell me how much they spend on each item how much they spent all together you can have a list how much they are black they love it it's fun but they're practicing edition so that's what was important to me the desserts are super creative and so you only do these once they've done a side dish and I'll try and some kids are never gonna get to here and that's okay this is extra this is above and beyond they this is fun I don't grade these but you can if you'd like to make a poster that would help students with addition strategies be sure to include vocabulary and regrouping create a game that will help students practice their addition facts be sure to include the directions and rules so these are really fun make something kind of activities but they don't require a lot of supplies okay so I think the math menu and I stick it in this little pencil pouch and students know that when they complete their ten centers they can use the madmen one thing I do want to say about me in a minute Center is that I use it as a spiral review which means that I'm only putting out the fraction unit after we've completed fractions whole group my whole group lesson maybe is on geometry and maybe even a meet the teacher or so we're working on geometry but me my independent section is gonna be the unit we've just finished this allows them to continue to practice a skill that is still relatively new to us but it also helps them to be more successful with the skill because they've already been taught the skills so something to think about they'll be able they'll have a lot less question and get higher scores and they're independent centers and it's something they've already been exposed to had small group instruction used manipulatives been assessed maybe even retaught in those cases where a student really struggled so my last center rotation is math facts we use might skip count during our whole group lesson but we don't have a ton of fun for math effects or trying to condense our lesson I also like math facts to be differentiated some of these students need to move faster through their math facts than others and so this Center is a great way to do that I purchased Kindle Fires for my kiddos and if you have computers or iPads you might be able to do this the first you may students would do is they will go to extra math and as a web site it is differentiated so they take a pre-assessment and then it shows them exactly which fact they already knew and which facts they didn't know and then it gives them practice and will continuously assess them on those facts and can move them on to more challenging facts when they're ready it also sends me a report you can even give the student ID to parents they can check in they can get reports students can do it at home it only takes five minutes so it's not a whole center of rotation for me and if you can't do it it's okay you can't do it but I just found the website and I found a way to make it work because polite to the website if you only have enough technologies using the Technology Center you might have students start by doing extra math and then log into something like Zurn or Moby max but I did get Kindle fighters they're pretty inexpensive on Amazon any only have enough for a smoker after they complete their extra because he said it only takes about five minutes they play math packed games together there's a couple of ways you can go about this there are lots of math geeks out there online on TPT on Pinterest I just need it super simple for me and for me students make favorite types of games to use in the center are like super kid friendly games games it or you know how to play Kentucky kittyland chutes and ladders Connect for Jenga um what I do with these games is I give them a stack of flashcards we're working on multiplication they get a multiplication side of flashcards you can actually give different sets of flashcards to different groups if you'd like so what they do they set up the game like the rules say they flip a flashcard if they give the accurate answer the partner can have a multi chart right there to check they give the accurate answer and then they take their normal turn on the game board so if it was Candyland they would then flip the Candyland card and move their piece so they're really playing Candyland the only way they can take a turn is by getting the map back correct it's fun and no prep you can get flashcards at the dollar store so I'm not I don't spend a lot of time teaching the rules because the kids know how to play these games for the most part it makes for a really easy Center and students really enjoy it and they're practicing math effects all right so these are the four different rotations that my groups do let's talk a bit about schedules and how to make this work I believe wrongly and doing only two rotations per day when I first started teaching I tried to do for groups or rotations and it was kind of a mess what would happen is my rotations meeti they were scheduled to be 15 minutes long but by the time you transition and get out materials and then you're putting materials away you're losing quite a bit of time maybe if you're lucky we're actually linked to all of minutes with the kids so you get out those manipulatives and you do one problem and it's just about time to switch again it didn't seem like we're really digging in deep it didn't seem like after one program I could then give them another one based on the needs I saw right there and so I got to thinking that two groups will give me longer time with a student and allow me to dig deep I'm still doing a hooker and every single day but I'm only meeting with my students every other day but it's for longer so we actually get deeper and lose lost how much transitions when I meet with them we can still review skills from the day before because I didn't meet with them that day so we can start by reviewing those skills and then add on today's skills and it's okay I find that I actually meet their needs so much better with that longer period of time and I promise you that with training students that are maybe second grade and above can handle 30 minutes and our rotations if that's how long you have I was really blessed to have a 90 minute math block and honestly I challenge you to really look at your schedule if you're allowed to I know in some schools you are not allowed to but look at your schedule where are you spending your minutes in my opinion just my opinion math reading writing are the most important places I need to spend my minutes followed by science social studies and so I look at my day and I'll eliminate things that don't help my students move forward in those areas and it means that I don't count time for a class meeting every day it means that my transitions have to be super quick store spend lots of time on that the beginning of the year I don't I have brain breaks periodically but I can't have ten a day okay I had to get creative I decided to teach science and social studies on Fridays it gave me a huge chunk of time for science and socialize because I chose not to teach a new math lesson or a new reading lesson about test centers that day so I do all ma Center rotations Monday through Thursday just me a bigger chunk of time and then I'm Friday I do assessments for any subject I might have one spelling vocabulary maybe I'm a math test me the other two reading tests many of where we are in a unit and then I spend the rest of my time on science and social studies this means you can do like more elaborate projects and experiments and things and I like that my students do too it's a fun way to send them home for the weekend but it also gave me more time and made schedule for my math small groups my reading small groups and my writers workshop so I challenge you to really look at your schedule creatively and see are you giving them too much time for morning work morning work should be like a 20 minute event okay try to see what you can do but if you have a 90 minute walk it's awesome I spend holger I do 30 minutes so about 20 minutes on the lesson about 10 minutes on the practice sheet and then for centers I have two 30-minute rotations it's awesome so if you can manage it this is the dream if you have no say whatsoever and can only do a 60 minute math block this is my recommendation this is like the best case scenario do a 15 minute lesson with 5 minutes in the practice sheet dimino a 20 minute whole group and then do two 20 minute rotations so 20 minute whole group and then two 20 minute rotations you are going to have to do your mini lesson quicker but remember you still have your meet the teacher to dig in deeper you're really introducing the skill whole group I'm practicing it in swagger so this is an option just because you only have 60 minutes some aim to not do math centers I have a teacher say the only on 45 minute math walk and I'm like that's crazy talk where do you steal some time try and steal it from somewhere all right let's talk about if you have four groups and they really don't recommend having more than four groups I have some people say well I have eight different levels of students and you might you're just gonna have to put them in like groups which means there may be a couple of students a little higher than another couple in the group it's okay as long as they're similar okay I recommend four groups this especially for larger classes I think more than that means you're gonna meet with them less yeah shorter amount of time to meet with them here's a schedule that I used I had have four groups because I had a bigger class and this is the schedule I used so my group one I needed something more creative but group one on Monday would meet with me first and then they would have their Technology Center for meeting with me they're doing skill work with me and then they go and do technology they will do this exact same rotation on Wednesday meet with me and then technology but on Tuesdays and Thursdays they're gonna start with their independent center work and then do math facts group to does just the flip insist starting with meet the teacher they start with technology then they you meet the teacher that's their Monday Wednesday and then Tuesday Thursday they do met facts and then independent groups three and four so on Monday group three does independent and math facts and your for does math – independent act weather Tuesday Thursday schedule they start now meet the teacher three meets with me first and then technology and group form starts with technology and that means me so they have two different schedules they have students will have a Monday when they schedule and the have a Tuesday Thursday schedule they figure this out really quickly and even when I switch them in different groups they figure it out but I do post it like I said I have posters says the group name down at the bottom it said it would say something like Monday and Wednesday meet the teacher then technology Tuesday and Thursday independent then Matt fax I use I eliminate it use dry erase write their names if they are ever not sure where to go they can easily look at the poster this is what I would do if I had a larger group of students maybe more than maybe more than eighteen I would probably do it this way so there is four groups four different rotations but you only meet with only do two rotations each day this is always my dream calendar if you have a small class like eighteen or less this is awesome just let your kids into three groups let me show you what Group one group two are the same as it was with four groups Group one starts with me the teacher and then technology from monday-wednesday and they do independent in math wax or Tuesday Thursday three is the same as it was with the four group scheduled two they start with independent and then they do math.max Tuesday there's anything you meet the teacher and then they do technology but since you only have three groups we'll get your Tuesday Thursday schedule you're gonna meet with group three first but after that you don't have a group to meet with but the rest of your students have a central rotation so your whole class has something to do but you do not have a group to meet with I think this is the dream and you're not gonna use this time to eat a snack and check your email instead you had pull your lowest learners it doesn't even have to be a group you could just say I need Johnny and Katy and Susie to cover the back table and they'll miss whatever they're scheduled to do but you are more important than anything they're scheduled to do right and if you notice during the week during meet the teacher or during whole group that these particular kettles were really really struggling pull them back and give them a second opportunity to meet the teacher hey you can pull it hello who's been absent a lot and needs a little like extra help you can pull a couple of kiddos that are really high and give them an even more extension you can also just walk around and sit in on like the independent center sit-in and offer assistance and give ideas okay it gives you some flexibility to meet with not just like a whole group if you need to you can say you know what I need group two to come to me for meet the teacher again and you can do that or you can just pick and choose certain students who maybe need a retest or reteach and provide that intervention or extension okay so if I use small class I would totally go with this schedule because I think it gives you even more opportune to meet your students needs all right guys this gives you just a little bit of an idea about the activities I use how I do holger quickly why I only use two rotations a day a couple of different schedules that you might use all of this information is in my Matson or blog posts series that I'm going to link in the description I'm also going to link my in a minute Mac Center units per second third fourth and fifth and I'll post a link to my math menus and my attractive math notebooks and put all of those in the description so you have even more resources at your fingertips thanks guys

Can you please post a link for the math menu items for kids that finish early? Thank you!

Do you have an editable version of the group rotation schedule?

Hi! I am so grateful for your videos and products! I am moving from teaching kinder to second and you have eased my anxiety greatly by streamlining the math block so well! Thank you! I love the Math Menu products. Do you happen to have a set for money that I am not finding easily? Or is there one in the works? Thank you again!

What do you do on Friday? Assessment only or?

Thank you for this! I have 32 in 4th, I wonder if this will work…

Thank you so much for this video Jamie! My district also uses Engage NY. What do you use from the curriculum for your mini lessons? Do you focus on the application question and the concept development? Thanks for your help!

I have been looking for a video like this for years. Im glad I watched your video. You really have made my life much easier by watching this video. I have already purchased the math centers. I will change the storage this year for sure to those pencil pouches and bins. Thanks

I am so glad I found you! You are clear and easy to follow. THANK YOU!! I am a new teacher. I will be starting my 2nd year and last year I STRUGGLED with teaching engaging math lessons. I am going to try out math centers this year.

This was fantastic! Thank you so much for clearly laying out what has worked for you. I learned why my centers were such a struggle last year, and now I'm excited to try something new. Thank you!!

Do you conduct your small group at a table or carpet?

Thank you for all you do!

Good Job!