How to Use Guided Math with Any Curriculum

I often have teachers tell me that they don’t have time to teach guided math and small groups because they have to follow a curriculum. If I’m being honest with myself, I probably thought that once too. Allow me let you in on a little secret… Guided Math is not a curriculum. It’s a framework for how you structure and run your math block WITH your curriculum. It focuses on a gradual release method where learning primarily moves from teacher-led to student-led lessons and activities. 

You can read more in depth about the specific details in All About Guided Math, but for now, let’s quickly review the framework structure:

  1. Warm-up lesson
  2. Whole group lesson
  3. Independent practice
  4. Small groups
  5. Math stations

Today I’m going to share some simple tips to help you use the guided math format with ANY curriculum. 

Tip #1: Create a schedule for your math block

First, you need to make sure that you have your math block set up to run smoothly for this style of teaching as it can be a big transition. One of my best tips for you to take away from this is to BE FLEXIBLE! Things may not turn out perfectly the first time you try this and that’s ok! Use this teaching format as trial and error until you figure out what works best for you.

Here are some things to think about as you set-up your schedule:

  • minutes is your math block?
  • How many groups do you want to see each day?
  • How much time do you have for a whole group lesson?

Create a schedule that works best for you. This blog post, Setting Up Your Math Block, shows several example schedules of what a guided math block should look like whether you have a 60 or 90 minute time frame.

Tip #2: Don’t over plan 

This is your reminder that you do not have to do every single component within a lesson. 

Raise your hand if your district provided curriculum looks something like this:

  • Daily video to show students
  • Daily lesson plan from teacher workbook
  • Lesson from workbook
  • Student lesson from workbook

But you also want to do an interactive notebook lesson, make an anchor chart, and do a craft. 


To begin with, if you are required to use a district-provided curriculum then look at the components of that day’s lesson. Do you really need to do everything? NO!!! Pick one or two lessons or activities and go from there. Think about what is the most important and what can be done during the time frame you created?

Guided Math Binder

For Example: Maybe one day you show the video as your whole group lesson. During small groups you reinforce that video with a hands on lesson either provided by your curriculum or with supplemental materials. 

If you are required to use your student workbooks, you can make that a station that students rotate through. That’s not my favorite thing to do but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. 

Tip #3: Student Differentiation

A big factor in guided math instruction is that it allows you to differentiate your instruction to meet the needs of all your students. Even if your curriculum doesn’t provide you with differentiated materials, this part doesn’t have to be hard. 

Maybe instead of using two dice, students will use three dice or use special dice with larger numbers on them. These Whiz Dice from Amazon are my favorite for this. For problem solving practice, change out the numbers so different groups of students are working on the same activity but with different numbers. 

Whiz Dice Math Differentiation

Students can easily work on a skill using the same activity but on a different level. For example, think about place value for a second. Each group of students uses the same set of base ten cards but the activities are different: 

  • Group 1: Identifies the number from
  • Group 2: Identifies the number and write it in expanded form
  • Group 3: Identifies the number and writes it four different ways

Lastly, prioritize your lessons based on what kids need the most, not what your curriculum workbook tells you to do. Use this standards checklist in my Guided Math Binder to help keep track of student mastery.

Maybe you are looking to get started with Guided Math but have no idea where to start. I would highly recommend you check out Managing Math Stations. This online, self-paced professional development training walks you through step-by-step how to implement guided math into your day!

Managing Math Staitons Guided Math Professional Development

As you can see, it is ok to simply break down your lessons into smaller chunks using the Guided Math format to spread your material out over a period of time.

Dive into this topic with me deeper in my YouTube video below!

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