3 Common Mistakes Teachers Make When Starting Guided Math

Guided math is my jam now, but back in the day when I first learned about it, I definitely didn’t take the time to process how I was going to implement it with my students.

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did, so let’s dive right in to these 3 common mistakes teachers make when starting guided math.

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3 Common Mistakes Teachers Make When Starting Guided Math

Mistake #1 – Not implementing routines & procedures

Just like the beginning of a new school year, implementing routines and procedures for guided math is so important! We must take the time to teach our students how to do centers and independent work.

If your students are familiar with whole group teaching during math lessons and one day you decide to split them into random groups and rotate them around the classroom – it is NOT going to work!

You must take the time to teach your students how to transition, work with partners, and even work with manipulatives (remember – we want to make math HANDS-ON)!

My number one tip for training your students to successfully learn guided math is to have a TRANSITION SIGNAL. You can use anything from a simple bell to even a wireless doorbell!

Wireless doorbell for guided math transitions

I also found it beneficial to teach my students appropriate noise or voice levels to use for our guided math time. We trained and practiced various noise levels for many weeks to ensure proper behavior.

voice levels for guided math transitions
voice levels for guided math transitions

It is not uncommon for it to take up to 5 weeks to properly train your students on how to successfully participate in guided math!

Here’s a quick breakdown of the various weeks:

Week 1: Routines & Procedures. If a student does something wrong while practicing your routines and procedures – Stop. Show the Signal. Call the students to the carpet to discuss what went wrong & how to do better.

Week 2: Practice only 1 station for the entire week. I know it may sound simple, but believe me when I say it is better to start off slow!

Week 3: Multiple stations. Begin by practicing 2 stations while rotating from one activity to the next, followed by the third station.

Week 4: Implement technology. Students love it so don’t be afraid to use it!

Week 5: Begin Guided Math. Now that your students know the routines & procedures of how to transition and work together – let the fun begin!

Mistake #2 – Over Prepping Materials

There is absolutely no need to run off copies for every single one of your students and spend an entire day laminating every piece!

That’s the joy of guided math – More and likely your students will be working together in groups of 4-5 kids (I would suggest not going over 6 to a group) and because of that, they can share!

A few tips I would suggest is that if you are using task cards is to print them in black & white on different colored paper. That way you know which set belongs to which group.

Another hack is that if you are playing a game, you can put the game sheet inside a plastic sleeve protector so that students can write on it and then just wipe it off!

 3 Common Mistakes Teachers Make When Starting Guided Math

Mistake #3 – Never Switching Up Your Groups

Guided math is very different than guided reading in that you do not have to necessarily group your students by ability level. It is very important to constantly change up your math groups.

My suggestion would be to change your groups every 4-6 weeks or when a new concept is introduced. I use a Guided Math Binder to keep track of my notes for each student and my groups.

guided math binder

Just think – a student might struggle in one area of math, but excel in the next so it’s important to use your math data and have mathematical conversations with your students to better serve them!

Quick Recap

Here are the three common mistakes that teachers make when starting guided math.

  1. Always take the time to establish routines and procedures
  2. Do not over prep your materials
  3. Constantly be changing up your groups

If you want to see something embarrassing, such as how I use to prep my math stations back in the day, check out this Facebook Live.

If you’re looking for more tips when it comes to Guided Math, you can check out this blog series. The first post shares How to Set Up Your Math Block.

3 Common Mistakes Teachers Make When Starting Guided Math

Have a blessed one,


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