All About Guided Math

Guided Math is a structure for your math block that allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students. Similar to Guided Reading, the teacher puts students into small groups based on their ability and teaches the curriculum standards. 

It’s our job as educators to try and help all of our students succeed by providing targeted instruction through small groups. Let’s talk through what guided math is and then different components. 

All about Guided Math

What is Guided Math?

Guided Math is a framework the focuses on a gradual release method from teacher lead instruction to student lead instruction. There are five main components that guided math work. They are:

  • math warm up
  • whole group lesson
  • independent practice
  • small groups and math stations
  • reflections

Below is a chart that shows the gradual release method within this setup. 

Math Warm Ups

Math warms ups are short, simple tasks that your students can complete in about 5-10 minutes at the start of your math block. Warm ups can be simple games or pencil to paper tasks. These tasks need to be on a level that students can complete independently. Most of the time it is a quick review of something they’ve already learned. Math warms up are also a great time to promote higher order thinking. 

Math warm ups are not random worksheets that you use to keep your students busy. Warms ups are to help increase mathematical comprehension. These tasks are also never graded or turned in. 

If your math block happens to be in the morning, math warm ups can take the place of traditional morning work. When students arrive in your classroom they need to know exactly what is expected. These routines need to be consistent so that time is not wasted. If your math block is not first thing, your warm up time can be the first few minutes of your math time to get students back into the routine. Math warm ups set the tone for your math block. They need to know exactly what is expected. 

Whole Group Lesson

Think of your whole group mini lesson as the kick off to your instruction! This is a great opportunity to hook your students and develop interest in a new topic. Mini lessons are perfect for introducing new concepts and allow time for continued practice. Typically your mini lesson lasts 15-20 minutes. 

What do I do during a mini lesson?

  • Introduce concepts
  • Practice and review
  • Readalouds
  • Assessments

When planning out your mini lessons, keep them simple and do not over plan. You do not need to make an anchor chart, work with manipulatives, have students work in their math journals, and do a craft all in the same timeframe or the same day. Let’s take about some things that you can do during this time to keep your students engaged.

  • Create a whole group anchor chart TOGETHER
  • Videos
  • Manipultives
  • Pocket chart sorts
  • Math journals or workbook
  • Read alouds
  • Assessments

Set a timer and keep your instruction simple. 

Independent Practice 

Independent practice is when students take 10-15 minutes to apply what they have just learned in their mini-lesson. During this time, the teacher walks around and assists those who may need it. 

What to do during independent practice?

  • interactive notebooks
  • task cards
  • partner games
  • crafts
  • curriculum workbook
  • technology
  • manipulatives

Small Groups

Your small group time is where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. I am a firm believer that miracles can happen at the small group table. This is when the teacher will provide targeted, differentiated instruction, to small groups of students. While the teacher is working with a group, the rest of the class is rotating through independent activities that cover previously taught skills. Small group rotations typically last 15-20 minutes per rotation. 

A small group lesson should always focus on a small portion of a bigger topic. During this time your goal is to help your students make mathematical connections, demonstrate and model concepts, and provide support.

Math Stations

Math stations are the same thing as math centers. They are different than any other component in guided math. The responsibility of learning shifts from the teacher to the students. During math stations students review previously taught concepts. 

Your students have the flexibility to work individually, with a partner, or their entire group. The work assigned also has flexibility. They might be working on a paper and pencil task, playing a game, working in their math journal, problem solving, or working with some sort of technology. 


One last component for students is reflection time. This can hold students accountable for how they are feeling about their learning. 

  • What went well?
  • What did not go well?
  • Was something too easy or too hard?
  • Do I have a question for the teacher?

Students can respond to these types of questions orally or written down. This is not something that comes naturally to kids but with time it develops and becomes a very valuable piece of the math block.

What’s Next

I know that probably all seemed like a lot to process but I promise you that it doesn’t have to be hard. I’ve created a FREE eBook that goes into detail about how to get started with Guided Math. Inside this download, you’ll learn how to create a vision for your classroom, see example activities, and so much more. Fill out the form below to have it sent straight to your inbox. 

If you are looking for more information on how to get started, check out my Guided Math in the Primary Classroom blog series.

Have more questions? Join the Saddle Up for 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook Community and drop me a question. I’m always happy to help. 

All about guided math

Have a blessed one, 


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