Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guided Math... A Link Up! & and a freebie

I am SO excited to be linking up with  The Primary Girl and some other great teachers as she hosts this book study of Guided Math:  A Frame work for Mathematics Instruction by Laney Sammons.
I read Guided Math at the beginning of this school year.  I was very excited but have to admit that it was not what I expected...

Don't get me wrong!!  It is a GREAT must have book but I think I expended it to be more along the lines of Math Work Stations by Debbie Diller or Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in K-3 by Jessica Shumway... Both of which I have and are MUST haves...  They might just be the Guided Math Trifecta so to speak.

So back to Guided Math....  It is more technical than the two other books I mentioned; so at times, it got a bit heavy for me and also I did not have anyone to bounce ideas off of or chew over what I was reading....  It does not help that I was probably on a crash course to get to the finish line so to speak!!  lol    So with that being said I am SO excited to be linking up with some other FAB teacher/bloggers.  I can't wait to eat up their pearls of wisdom!  Before I launch into my "deep thoughts" on Ch 1 let me first let you know that this is my 2nd year back to teaching after 12 at home and my first ever in 2nd grade--I have always been in K or younger.  OH and sorry this is long!

Chapter 1-Guided Math:  A Framework for Mathematics Instruction

Laney Sammons does a great job of introducing the concept and need for Guided Math; which is a relatively new concept in education I believe.  It was like she could see right into my head and knew the ultimate goal I had for my math block.  Since 3rd grade I unequivocally would describe myself as NOT a math person!!  That is when I remember my swiss cheese knowledge of math concepts started.  I just did not "get it".  Math=Whaawhaa (can you say Charlie Brown!!)  I have a confession to make:  I am in the 71% of people who cannot calculate miles per gallon on a trip and the 78% of the population who cannot explain how to calculate interest on a loan...  Just typing this makes my brain say "whaawhaawhaa"

The focus in math for too long has been on knowing the procedure NOT the WHY and I want my kids to know the WHY!!!  Sadly, the changes that have taken place in favor of guided reading so long ago did not happen in math... And I ask why not???  And just as sadly, there are still too many teachers that feel the "drill and kill" is the ONLY way to go....  I have a teacher on my hall that upon seeing me bust out the place value mat and base 10 manipulative with a student that was still not getting the 2 digit addition (long after introduction) said "My class would not know what that is; but they CAN work the problems."  *(this teacher is a GREAT teacher!!)  but obviously we are on different teaching philosophies...  But that is another story.   Anyway, my point is that I see myself in this students that have NO IDEA what they are doing and will NEVER get it.  Many of the "new" math ideas make SO much sense to me!!  They get me excited to learn and teach math!!  CRAZY!!  I would have told you two years ago NEVER!!  But many of the teachers out there think they are a waste of time and hate to teach them...  Trust me I get not being comfortable or even not liking different topics... but if you only teach ONE way you are only teaching to ONE student.  Laney Sammons talks about creating a "culture of numeracy"; active, authentic engagement.  A classroom culture "willing to take risks" and "share their thinking with others".  One way to achieve this is to have a "Number of the Day" activity in the morning.  There are MANY ways to do this... just do a search on Pinterest!  You won't be disappointed.  She even says that whole class interaction has its own time and place in guided math-it just can't be the only way.  Guided Math should have both formal and informal assessments to create your groups and they should be fluid...  This is something that I admit I have not done.  I created the groups and they stayed that way.  I could not quite figure out how to change them up and not hear "Mrs. O'Neal I already did that...."  I have 5 groups of 4 students and I have these stations:  Math Journal, Seat Work, Technology, Math Tubs, and Teacher (which sometimes I would make Partner Games if I did not want to be stuck with one group and wanted to be more flexible in my work with students).  I only change out journal work and seat work weekly--the math tubs I have 5 tubs and tried to have a mix of specific actives with a record sheet and more open ended that could be repeated if the students wanted.  This is not perfect or exactly what I want but it has evolved and worked for me this year.

She also alines Guided Math to reading groups; and that you should to be just as intentional in your introduction and expectations in the beginning of the year with your guided math workshop as you are in ELA  **something I learned!!  (early on I had to stop and regroup and apologized to my students that I did not give the same weight to our math time as I did to our D5 learning!  We paused and slowed down to make the anchor chart and really get into the same discussion and modeling of math stations as D5.  You should approach Guided Math the same as with Daily 5 for example.  You want to begin with the teacher giving total support and gradually through modeling and discussion release responsibility but be available for support.  Finally the last stage is when the students are in charge of their learning; they have assumed full responsibility.  This now leaves you free to work with the groups with little to no distractions.  The beauty of Guided Math is there is NO right or wrong way!!  Did you hear that?!  You as the teacher; knowing your students the best, needs to create as system that works for you.  Luckly if you are new to this (as I was) Laney Sammons has provided a possible weekly schedule:

Monday:  Whole Group:

  • activating strategy
  • problem solving think-aloud by teacher
  • explanation of independent work for the week
Tuesday:  Whole Group, Workshop, Conferencing, Small Group
  • mini lesson (read-aloud of math literature)
  • independent math work with teacher (teacher is conferencing for 10-15min.)
  • meet with Group 1
Wednesday:  Whole Group, Workshop, Conferencing, Small Group
  • problem challenge mini lesson
  • indep. math work--teacher is conferencing
  • meet with Group 2

Thursday:  Workshop, Conferencing, Small Group
  • indep. math work--teacher is conferencing
  • meet with Group 3
  • meet with Group 1 again
Friday:  Whole Group
  • math huddle--students share observations, problem solving strategies (student lead)
  • create an anchor chart as a classroom reference
At the end of each chapter there is a review and reflect:

Currently I feel my groups have really evolved into successfully independent workgroups.  Groups of 4 seems to be the right fit for this class.  I feel that I am successful in meaningful work also... Not just busy work.

I have not felt as if I have a balance of whole group, small group, and conferencing.  I strive to spend as much time in small group as I can.  But then there is the pressure to make sure the students can be prepared for the assessments--again I feel that I teach the opposite of my co-teachers so the pressure to not have scores be very far behind theirs is there...  I would like to be able to have an effective system to switch up my groups more often.

3.  Does your math instruction lead your students to a deep conceptual understanding of the math standards that they are learning?  If so what are you doing that contributes to that?  If not, how do you think you would like to change your teaching?
I would like to think that at times yes.  I encourage discussion on "how" and "why"--NOT on the correct answer.  I try to show several ways when possible.  But of course in my mind I think of the students that I just wish I could do more-have more time with....  That is a struggle we all have... If now then it might be time to do something else....

I would really like to challenge you to step out of the box with your math block.  I would love to discuss with you if you have ideas, get stuck, or just don't know where to start!!  Strangely enough this is becoming a passion of mine--if you had told me two years ago I would have said your crazy!!  There is so much more I could write about but I won't ;)....

Do not forget the giveaway!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As a thank you for staying and reading this far here is freebie for you!

Doubles Workmat


  1. Great post -thank you. You it the nail on the head about the teaching of how and why being so important. If we only 'drill & kill' teach, we only serve to teach the students the knowledge in that situation, most cannot transfer that knowledge to another situation! So while they may score well in an assessment (as long as the assessment is in the same format as taught) they really do not know the maths on a deeper level.
    By the way I reckon some of the best maths teachers are those who did not get it at school as they are determined their kiddo's wont feel the same and will go the extra mile to ensure understanding.
    I look forward to reading more of your observations during the book study :)

  2. Thank you!! You made my day!!!