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Classroom Management | Mathematics | Teaching Strategies | February 2, 2024

4 Reasons Why GUIDED is the BEST Way to Teach Math

Guided Math is a framework for teaching mathematics built on seven research-based components. In this guided math article, we will explore reasons why the Guided Math framework is highly effective for meeting the needs of all students in your mathematics classroom. 

What is Guided Math?

Guided Math provides “just right” mathematics instruction that targets students’ immediate learning needs.

Guided Math invites teachers to engage their classrooms, to assess students' problem-solving abilities, and to utilize small-group and whole-group instruction, manipulatives, math warm-ups, and math workshops. Within the framework, students collaborate with their peers and develop a robust and productive mathematical learning community, engaging in a math workshop model and practicing math in productive workstations. Guided Math provides a structure for teaching mathematics as teachers focus on a specific strategy, skill, or concept. Differentiation is a key component as teachers focus on the development of each child.

Guided Math is a model that offers all students opportunities to develop their mathematical skills at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty with the ultimate goal of helping them gain the ability to function independently in the world of mathematics. Guided Math allows teachers to establish and maintain a classroom framework organized to support numeracy.

Seven components set the foundation for Guided Math implementation. Use them together to provide a practical, effective, research-based approach to mathematics instruction.  

Reasons Guided Math is Best

After being an educator for over 20 years, I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work with students. I now know that I did a lot of things that probably weren’t in the best interest of my learners (like stand and deliver math instruction for 60–90 minutes *face palm*). Watching education evolve has been a learning experience. Trends come and go, but a trend I’ve been involved with for the past eight years is Guided Math. After project managing several large implementations, I am convinced that it is the best way to teach math. Here are four reasons why.

Cater to shorter attention spans

We know that students’ attention spans “decline precipitously after 10–15 minutes.” I dare say for some lower elementary students, it’s even shorter. One of the seven tenets of Guided Math is whole-group instruction. Guided Math shifts instruction away from a 60-minute lecture to a shorter, whole-group segment at either the beginning of the lesson, the end, or both. This caters to students’ short attention spans. The whole group mini-lesson captures attention but quickly transitions to the next activity, dissuading boredom and getting students moving and focusing on the next task.

Focus on individual needs

With the Guided Math framework, teachers can focus on individual student needs, rather than teaching the same thing in the same way to the whole class. The pertinent instruction takes place at the teacher table and is carefully tailored to meet students at their level. Prior to the lesson, students are placed into homogeneous groups and during workstation time, the teacher requests that students come to the table. Here, the teacher has carefully planned instruction based on targeted areas for growth or acceleration. In addition, instruction is differentiated based on student learning styles. When executed correctly, the teacher table is a valuable tool that allows for individualized instruction while providing immediate feedback, which helps with planning next steps for students.

Allow ownership

The remaining students are now charged with taking complete ownership for their learning. This is why it is crucial to guide students through the first 15 days of instruction to ensure students fully understand the learning and behavioral expectations of a Guided Math classroom. Check out Guided Math sample pages that describe the first fifteen days of instruction. An ideal guided environment will have three to four workstation rotations while a teacher is at the table. Ideally, these would include (math) fluency/games, vocabulary, writing, and technology stations. Students are heterogeneously grouped in workstations to assist each other when needed. Upon completion of a workstation activity, students are required to complete an exit ticket to prove their learning while away from the teacher. Lastly, the teacher follows up with appropriate, meaningful activities based on the assessments. Therefore, In the Guided Math framework, students are allowed to take ownership for their learning.

Move to active participation

With Guided Math, learning moves from passive to active participation. Enter any Guided Math classroom and you might do a double take. For those unfamiliar with the framework, it may resemble chaos. But be not dismayed. It is controlled chaos. Guided Math classrooms are far from still and quiet. They are busy and oftentimes noisy. And therein lies the beauty of the framework.

Students aren’t sitting and getting. They are actively creating, inspecting, and synthesizing mathematical information. They are discussing potential outcomes to math problems. They are asking peers for help. Conversations are taking place so the teacher precisely understands the mathematical abilities of each student. Guided Math classrooms are fun, engaging, and structured for 21st century learners.

Today’s learning environment has changed since I began teaching. The ways that students engage in the learning process is distinctive in this period in history. It’s crucial we meet them where they are and the way they learn best. I’ve worked with campuses that have implemented Guided Math and have seen their achievement soar. This guided math article demonstrates why this framework is truly THE BEST WAY to deliver focused, differentiated instruction for today’s learners.

Bradbury, N. A. (2016). Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds, 10 minutes, or more? Advances in Physiological Education.

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Author Bio:

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Sara McDaniel MEd., Senior Educational Consultant

Sara McDaniel M. Ed., currently an award-winning senior educational consultant with Teacher Created Materials, is a seasoned elementary classroom teacher and has served as both a building- and district-level school administrator. Serving in schools and districts in both Louisiana and Arkansas, Sara’s students thrived in her positive, upbeat learning environment.

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