I get asked this question a lot. Everywhere I go, teachers are looking for how to make the best use of their math time.
First, let me answer by saying there is no silver bullet. There are many effective ways to structure your math block. The structure I share below reveals what I’ve personally found to be most effective for me and those I work with. Whether you’re teaching kindergarten or middle school math, these components really make a difference!
1. Daily fluency practice (5-10 minutes): In my classroom, this usually includes interactive card and dice games as well as solitaire activities for those students who don’t like competition. Fluency practice may focus on basic math facts, place value, fractions, proportions and ratios, or properties of operations. This time is used for pretty much anything I want my students to be fluent with, with an emphasis on mental math and reasoning.
2.Mental Math/Problem of the Day (5-10 minutes): I love to begin the content portion of the day with a word problem that pushes students to focus on math concepts with which they aren’t yet fluent. For example, I’ll present a division problem involving dollars and cents prior to students learning the standard algorithm for decimal division. This pushes them to use a variety of strategies.
Another great use of this time is to engage the students in mental math work. Of course, my favorite is Sherry Parrish’s Number Talks.
3. Whole Group Instruction (10-30 minutes): Note that “whole group instruction” does not necessarily translate into “direct instruction.” This time may be used
- to build anticipation.
- to review prerequisite skills.
- to “set up” an inquiry-based exploration and let students do the bulk of the talking.
- to demonstrate new learning stations.
The point is that learning is a social endeavor, and I want to use the whole-group time to build the notion that we are all in this together.
4. Small Group Work & Independent Practice (20-30 minutes): Students work in small groups (and sometimes independently). Throughout the week, they rotate through four or five activities that focus on the content at hand using a variety of learning modes. For example, if we’re studying fraction multiplication, I may have
- one center that uses pattern blocks,
- another with a number line activity,
- a third with a fractions game,
- a fourth with independent work, and
- a fifth with interactive notebooks.
The students rotate to a different station each day. During this time, I pull small groups of students, a couple from each rotation, to work with me on interventions or enrichment, depending on their needs. I personally promote the Guided Math approach – here are some great resources.
5. Closure (5 minutes): Think formative assessment. What can you ask the students to say or do that will indicate that they met the day’s objective? This may include a ticket-out-the-door, a response board solution, a simple reflection, or a quick series of hands-up-multiple-choice questions. Whatever you do, don’t skip your closure. THEY should be assessing their progress – immediate feedback is hugely effective in helping students retain learning.
So…does anything here resonate with you? How do you structure your day? How might you incorporate one or more of these ideas into your work with students? Please join the conversation by leaving your comments below. I love hearing from you!