Guided Math is a structure for organizing your math block that involves mini-lessons, targeted small-group instruction, and opportunities for spiral review through math workshop. Like guided reading, guided math offers us, as teachers, the opportunity to intentionally group students based on skill and to carefully target specific skills. So often I’m asked – “What materials do I need to request to get started?” So today, I’m sharing some of our team’s go-to math materials!
How Do I Get Started?
Since using Guided Math, our 1st grade teams feels like we know our students as mathematicians like we know them as readers. We love the confidence students have in talking about their math thinking and the freedom we have to push, to question, and to fill ‘gaps’ in understanding. If you’re interested in reading more about how I make guided math work in my 1st grade classroom, I’ve linked the posts below for your convenience!
With that said, like guided reading, it took us 3-4 months before we hit our Guided Math stride. From figuring out how to switch-out math centers to how to group students to what resources we needed, it takes time to make Guided Math work for you and your classroom. Today I wanted to share the resources and materials that we use every.single.week in my classroom – whether students are at my teacher table or reviewing at a math center. Full disclosure, throughout the post, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon tosses a few nickels my way if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you, that help keep my corner of cyber-space running and helps fund giveaways like this one!
Dice for Differentiating
The single most valuable item in our math block is my set of dice. From twenty-sided dice to place value dice to four-sided dice, this pound-of-dice offers us a TON of different options to reach all of our learners. Plus, snagging a bead organizer keeps the dice easy to grab-and-teach all of my groups: green, yellow, and blue. (Read how I use dice to differentiate math centers in this post.)
The whole premise behind Guided Math is that students are working in small-groups on specific skills they struggle with. When students are working, they are interacting with hands-on materials that allow them to make sense of the math. They aren’t working on worksheets or busy work. They are using base ten pieces, unifix cubes, cuisenaire rods, double-sided counters, foam shapes, etc. So, in order to make Guided Math work, you need concrete manipulatives. Hopefully, your district has always provided these basics so you don’t have to invest in them. We can’t skill ahead to the semi-concrete or abstract too fast!
When we pull out these materials, I’m traditionally of the “Dump and Use” family. It makes it easy for all students at the table to have access and it allows for easy clean-up between rounds because students push the materials to the middle. Does it look like a hot mess? Yes. Does it matter? No.
Of course, before we introduce any manipulative as a learning tool, we take the time to explore and play with it. Not only does it allow students to the opportunity to find their own uses for the math tool but it allows me the opportunity to give purpose to the tool later. Read more about how we use cuisenaire rods in this blog post.
Individual Student Number Lines
Number lines are a go-to strategy for beginning mathematician. Plus, by laminating, hole-punching, and handing them, the numbers lines are easily accessible to students during math centers. Storing them this way, creates independence in my 1st graders while I am at my teacher table. They know to grab a number line if they need or want it and don’t have to interrupt learning.
Magnetic Ten Frames
Magnetic Ten Frames are perfect for whole-class demonstrations or hands-on math centers. Each pack comes with 4 ten frames and 40 circles (20 green, 20 blue). Note – you can also grab a set for FREE from the Highlights magazine in the fall. (Read more about how we work our way to 10 in this blog post.)
Spinners offer a ton of options for different learners. All students can be playing the same game or on the same board but just using leveled-spinners. You can totally make spinners using brads and paperclips, or using a pencil and a paperclip BUT my first-grade friends always struggle with the homemade spinners. Since students are using spinners mostly at math centers (when I am teaching at teacher table) I love the ease of these clear spinners. (Snag the leveled spinners for FREE here.)
Dry Erase Pockets
The perfect way to save paper, dry erase pockets are perfect for reviewing or practicing skills. They are also great for creating paperless math centers. Slip in one recording sheet and students can write straight on the pocket. Below you see my friends making 10 to add. When they finish, students can take a picture of their work for you to look at later, or they can share it during the next mini-lesson in between Guided Math rotations. Sheet protectors also work as a less sturdy option!
Colored Card Stock for Leveling Centers
Each of my math groups is assigned a color – green, yellow, blue to help differentiate our centers and work. During math centers, students are all working on the same standard or skill but all with different scaffolds. Students know to grab the folder, paper, playing cards, or dice that match their group’s color. Using colored cardstock keeps life simple and easy to manage! (Read more about how I use to color to differentiate our centers here.)
120s Pocket Chart
From the first day to the last day, our 120s Pocket Chart is always out and it gets a work-out. From ordering numbers to noticing patterns to finding 10 less/more, this pocket chart is gold. Unfortunately, most pocket charts only go to 100 but the Common Core asks students to work within 120. We all know 99-120 are some of the hardest numbers for students to conceptualize, so having an actual 120s chart is important to me. Plus, it becomes a PERFECT math center all year round!
120s Dry Erase Boards
Like the pocket chart, our 120s boards are perfect for individual practice in adding, subtracting, finding 10 more/less, identifying number patterns, and practicing those tricky 99-120 numbers. Plus, they are double-sided (one side with numbers and one with just a 120s grid) which makes differentiation simple! See more ways we work to master 120 in this blog post.
Sterilite Clip Top Bins
Oh how I love a good container and these are definitely the BEST math center tubs. They are sturdy, easily picked-up by little hands, easy to open/close (but do not not fall), and they fit an entire sheet of paper or folder inside of them. No more folder/curved papers for us – holla! These bins can be found at Dollar General, Target (only with green clips now), Home Depot, and Amazon. If you order them online from Home Depot and Amazon, you can order them in sets of 6 which is less expensive than ordering them individually…but note – they are definitely an investment.
Whoa! How Do I Afford These Things?
Do you need all of these resources to start Guided Math?? Absolutely not but having at least some of them does make life a lot easier. I slowly collected these goodies over the last two years shopping sales, using gift cards from students, through the classroom money our PTO provides (which is amazing), and through Donors Choose!
- Scholastic Reading Club – Using bonus points you can snag all kinds of resources from the Teacher Bonus Catalog. I’ve received magnetic timers, dice, book bags, whiteboards, and ten frames all for FREE! Read more about how I make the most of Scholastic Reading Club here.
- Highlights Magazines – Every Fall Highlights asks teachers to send home order forms. Even if your students don’t order, you collect the forms back and earn points for teaching supplies! Last year, I picked up the magnetic ten frames for FREE for a teammate. #score
- Donors Choose – Over the last 2 years, I’ve been blessed to received over $2,000 is FREE resources for my classroom. From math board games to iPads to iPods to guided reading books, Donors Choose is an awesome resource for public-school teachers. I’ve shared my tips for getting started on Donors Choose here.
- Save Gift Cards – Throughout the year, I will receive gift cards from my students and our PTO. It’s always a treat and never expected. If I receive gift cards for Amazon, Target, or Staples, I always save them and put them toward classroom supplies. These gifts help my personal budget stay on track! (Note – I know how blessed I am to work in the school whose population has the disposable income to do this and I am so thankful! This may not be an option for most classrooms but it is just one idea.)
So tell me, what are your go-to resources when teaching math? Are there materials you and your students find yourself grabbing every.single.week? I am ALWAYS looking for other ways to enhance our math block and would love to hear your ideas!
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