Math in Room 226: Part I

I've wanted to do this post for the past month, but I needed to get everything in order before I could that.

What I was doing before

I knew what I was doing before wasn't working, but at the same time, I've stretched myself far too thin this school year with wedding planning, blog designing, coaching, teaching before school program, and reading association, that I was too tired to change my direction. But I knew I needed to. I had to tell myself...these kids need have to do it for them.

I teach in southeast Iowa. My district has their state testing the first week of February. So basically, when we got back from winter break, I had 3 weeks to try to expose my class to 8 more topics we had yet to begin in math. I knew right after assessments were done, I needed to change math.

Before, I would always start the topic pre-test. My district uses Pearson EnVision math series, FYI. I would score the pre-tests and see what standards my kids did well with, and which ones were a big problem for them. That guided my lesson framework. My lessons usually consisted of doing a opening video on the textbook website, doing  5 or so questions together, then assigning a page or worksheet. B.O.R.I.N.G. I know... one thing that really held me back was the time. I had to have math from 8:35-10:00, because at 10 my IEP students go to their SPED teacher, and one of them doesn't have a math goal...yet. I also couldn't do any instructing from 9-9:30 because 5 of my kiddos went to Title Math at this time. Do you see my dilemma?! It was awful. Not to mention all of the grading. And missing assignments. Headaches.

I came across this post by my friend Tami from Learning is a Hooot, about her new way to do math centers. I really liked it and wanted to create something similar to use in my classroom.

What I'm Doing Now

I no longer teach whole group for math. Nope, no whole group instruction. I was able to jumpstart my student who will be receiving services in math by having her go across the hall to a co-taught math classroom in the afternoon. So I no longer had to worry about teaching her math, or my other 2 students who received services. I could now do math at 10-10:45 and 11:15-11:40 (my special on TWF is at 10:45-11:15). That meant I could have 70 minutes instructional time for math. Perfect. It's really more like 60 minutes with transitions, but I make it work. On Mondays and Thursdays and I can go a little longer because my special isn't right in the middle of my math block.

You might be it the world do you not do whole group instruction? That's because I see every single one my kiddos for 20 minutes in a small group (5-7 kiddos) every single day. I have 23 students in my class, but since 3 are in a different classroom for math, I basically have 20 kiddos for math. I'm SUPER lucky! So now, I have 3 groups, that I have grouped by ability. These are flexible groups, and I've already made some adjustments.

My math block has 3 20 minute rotations. Teacher, Centers, Notebooks (interactive notebooks, the ones I use are in my resource list at the end of this post).

This is what my class sees on the Promethean Board.
I start with my low group, then my average, then my high flyers. I do this for a specific reason. My high flyers start out the math block at centers, and a few of them will be doing their assignment. Sometimes the assignment will be over something that I haven't gone over with them yet, but since they're my high kiddos, they're usually capable of doing this on their own. 

My low kiddos go to centers right after they meet with me, because most of them will lose what I just taught them if they waited nearly an hour after (remember, special cuts in between rotation 2 and 3).

My middle kiddos start off with their notebook, then come to me, then finish with centers. 

The centers...I wanted to make sure that I didn't have all kids doing the same thing. I needed them spread out around the room, little arguments, and be completely engaged. Because they only do the center once or twice a week, that means it's keeping things fresh for them, not repetitive. Love that!

The task cards center changes all the time. It can be task cards, self checking problems with QR codes, fact fluency, I change this on a weekly basis to keep it fresh. You don't want them bored!

I have 3 student computers. My students were using IXL, but my trial ran out before my principal bought my license. I found an awesome free website that my kiddos love even more (seriously, I took a poll). They can access it at home, too!

For my math games I have kids use decks of cards to play their math games they have for homework, or use the iPod if we don't have QR codes. I also have puzzles, too. I change the games out to keep things fresh for them.

Then there's the assignment. It stays the same all week long. That means I only have 1 assignment to grade. And, because it's usually over a skill we learned last week, and review every day, they're more likely to do well on it. Sometimes they get it done in the 20 minute block, other times they use their independent work time in the afternoon to finish it up.

I give them 2 days to complete a notebook page. Meaning I only give a new page every other day. I learned after a couple weeks of doing this, they weren't getting them done during the rotation, and didn't work on them in the afternoon. Giving them 2 days to work on it, works much better!

It also cut out a lot of planning. I still use my pre-test results to guide my instruction, but I will change gears in my groups according to how well my kiddos are doing.

How do I know it's working?

Now, you probably want to know how they're doing with mastery, right? Yep, me too. One reason it took me so long to write this post is because I wanted to have pre and post test scores to see how they did with this new structure.

My students' pre test average for meanings of division was 54%. A typical score for pre tests in my classroom. Their post test average was 74%. Three of my students achieved perfect scores, and my 3 lowest pre test scores tripled on the post test.

The kids are loving it to. When I say get out your math station materials, they literally cheer. CHEER!

I love it!

So, leave your comments for me and ask questions! What do you still want to know about? What are you unsure about?

Thanks for hanging in there during this long(er) post! You find a list of my favorite math resources here!

Make sure to leave your questions for me so I know what you'd like answered!


  1. Lindsey, such a great post! I love everything about it. We were using Front Row, but not as a center. We've been using it for homework and on our computer lab day. I am going to work over Spring Break to figure out my groups and get everything up and running for when we get back. I've tried several different things for math this year, but I feel ya! Nothing. Is. Working! I'd also like to recommend a tech addition to fact practice for you: DigitWhiz. It's free and the kids looooove it! My question is do you pretest and then base your groups on that and then change groups up for each new unit based on their pretest score?

  2. Sounds so awesome! I too love teaching math in small groups and will never go back! Way to do what's right for your students!!

  3. Sounds so awesome! I too love teaching math in small groups and will never go back! Way to do what's right for your students!!


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