June 28, 2013

Ch. 1 - Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction

Hey everyone!  This is Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper!  
I am here today to participate in a book study on Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction by Laney Sammons. This book study was set up by my blogging buddy, the amazing Tina from Crofts' Classroom:) 

I was thrilled when my girl Tina asked if I would like to read this book with her this summer.  It was already on my reading list and it seemed like everyone had already read it but me!!  

Today, I am going to highlight... 
Chapter One:  
Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction

I heard SO much about this book and prior to actually reading the book, I had some preconceived notions of what "Guided Math" was all about.  
(OK, I have only read Chapter One but I just ended school a week ago so give me a break! :)  
Anyway, I imagined a book all about center work with small groups of students and differentiated instruction.  This is totally NOT how I teach math currently which is why I REALLY wanted to read this book!  Recently, I have incorporated more centers, task cards, etc. into morning work routines and intervention groups but the core instruction is whole group with guided whole class practice using different strategies/manipulatives as a whole group.   So, I was pleasantly surprised that Guided Math addresses the guided math aspect of teaching with small groups but so much more too!  

My Background:  When I was in school, I was always instructed using a whole class model and I have to say that I liked it.  I was one of those kids that "got it" and was in accelerated math, taking Calculus my senior year (by choice!).  Now, as a teacher, Math has always been my favorite subject to teach.  I believe that one reason I love to teach it is because I try to make my love for math contagious!  I can honestly say that there is not a math problem that comes my way that "scares" me so I try to instill that belief in my students.  No one should be scared of math!  That being said, I have learned over my 13 years of teaching math (8 years were spent teaching 6th grade math on a departmentalized team) that one size does NOT fit all!  I think I have always known this but sometimes it is a challenge to accept that something that comes so easy for me is so difficult for someone else.  For example, I have never been able to whistle.  My friends tried everything growing up to help me but I just couldn't do it!  I would see how frustrated and confused they were that something so easy for them was challenging for me.

Sammons states in the introduction to Chapter One, "Teachers are discovering that methods they have used successfully in the past are no longer working...As I grappled with frustrations in my own classroom, I gradually developed 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."

What are the instructional components of Guided Math?
Chapter One gives a brief introduction to the seven instructional components to Guided Math.  The other chapters will give a more detailed description and discussion of each component.  See Tina's schedule to keep up with each chapter and join in with your own comments and questions!

1.  A Classroom Environment of Numeracy
A math-rich classroom will help students become aware of mathematical and problem-solving opportunities throughout their everyday lives, therefore putting a "math curse" on students!

2.  Morning Math Warm-Ups and Calendar Board Activities
Math warm-ups take place in the morning to set the tone of the day and as students arrive, they have assigned tasks to complete.  The class discusses and analyzes the results during calendar board activities.
3.  Whole-Class Instruction
Although many educators today are moving away from this teacher-directed method of instruction, it still can have a place in today's classroom, "providing it isn't the only, or primary, method of instruction".  
4.  Guided Math Instruction with Small Groups of Students
This is a method of teaching in which teachers assess their students formally and informally, and then group them according to their proficiencies at a given skill.  Although the groups are homogenous, they are fluid since students' levels of understanding change!
5.  Math Workshop
In order for small groups or conferences to be effective, it should be uninterrupted.  Students who are not engaged directly with the teacher participate in math workshop.  Students must have meaningful work to do and know how to follow established and practiced procedures for independent individual group work.   This sounds so familiar to the D5 model that I started using this year for ELA!
6.  Individual Conferences
At times one-on-one work is needed to aid the teacher in assessing student understanding or misunderstanding of mathematical skills or concepts or to extend student understanding.
7.  An Ongoing System of Assessment
"Ongoing accurate assessment provides teachers with timely information about class and individual student needs."  A student's ability in math can vary widely from concept to concept, making it more difficult to assess than reading ability.  This is so true!  I teach math intervention for the whole 4th grade and the reading teachers can have broad goals that fit most students (improve reading fluency or improve reading comprehension).  It is much more difficult to set goals for math intervention students without some diagnostic tool.  We use data from the state exam, classroom assessments, as well as computer based programs but keeping it all straight is sure a challenge!

Chapter One of Guided Math has me so intrigued that I can't wait to read more!!  
This is my favorite quote from Chapter One that seems to sum up the Guided Math philosophy the best:

"...research does not support the contention that mathematics instruction should be completely teacher-centered or student-centered.  Guided Math is a framework for teachers that allows them to use their professional judgment to structure mathematics instruction to meet the diverse needs of the students in their classes.  It moves away from the one-size-fits-all model and empowers teachers to determine the best instructional strategies for each student, for the class, and for the concepts being taught each day."

We would love to hear your thoughts on any of these discussion questions:
1.  Do you use "an ongoing system of assessment" for math?  
2.  How do you keep up with each student's level of proficiency on so many concepts?
3.  What aspects of how you currently teach math are successful?  
What aspects trouble you?

Thanks for reading and we hope you will follow along with us!


  1. I try to use an ongoing system of assessment, but I am not very good at it! Here is my plan for this year: give pretest, group students based on levels, differentiate my teaching to each group, assess while teaching the group, assess the work they do, and give a test at the end of each math unit.

    I am going to use a 3 point scale to grade everything because then I can still enter the gradebook. I keep my planner right next to me at all times and as students finish assignments I quickly check them and enter a 1, 2, 3 in my book.

  2. I've spent this past year working on "ongoing assessment" but I still need a lot of work. What I am doing well is preassessing my students via a pretest a few days before we begin the new chapter (this lets me come up with differentiated activities for those kids who already "get it." I do work to use formative assessment each day, so as students show their understanding they can move on to their independent work. This year I'm looking forward to moving into small group instruction instead of whole group the entire time.
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  3. Thank you for this book study. I've downloaded the ebook and am following. This will be my first year teaching! I'm excited and eager to learn.

  4. I need to work on a better system for assessment and record keeping! Right now I am trying to develop some checklists for the TEKS (Texas objectives) we will cover during the first 9 weeks.
    I love teaching problem solving strategies, but I need to work on doing more in small groups. I've shared some more thoughts about this chapter on my blog.
    Still Teaching After All These Years