Inside this blog post, I am sharing my best tips for running guided math rotations, so that you can launch this simple and effective routine in your own classroom!

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“WHAT? Awwwwwwww man! Noooooo. Mrs. Morieeeeeeeeee.”

This is the response I got from my students when I told them we wouldn’t be doing math rotations today.

Of course, this made me feel really bad that we were having to do a whole group lesson today instead of math rotations, but on the other hand, it reminded me HOW MUCH my students LOVE our guided math rotations.

Yay! I was doing something right! Ha!

Do you use the guided math framework in your classroom? 

If not, what are you waiting for? 🙂

I’ve been using this framework for 10 years and gosh, it’s been the best thing for my students. My principal even asked me to hold a book club for the teachers in my school because she saw how successful I was with the guided math system.

I’m so excited to share my experience with you!

So, in this blog post I’m going to share how I run guided math rotations in my classroom, and what exactly it is. 

Okay, well. Let’s start with that. What exactly is guided math?

What is Guided Math?

Guided math is simply a framework or management system that allows teachers to differentiate their math instruction by meeting with small groups of children, while other groups of students are engaged in various math rotations and activities around the classroom.

So basically, while you are at your teacher table meeting with a group of 5-8 children (grouped by ability), you have 2 or 3 other groups of children (also grouped by ability) engaged in an independent math activity, completing a math center activity, playing a math game, or maybe on their iPad or Chromebook playing a math game.

How Do Your Run Your Guided Math Rotations?

This is the question I get asked most often.

Let me start by saying I’ve always had between 18-24 students and around a 60-70 minute math block. I’m telling you this so you can have some context for what I’m about share next.

I almost ALWAYS begin my math block with a 5-10 minute warm-up, word problem or mini-lesson. You can read more about that here (blog post on this coming soon).

From there we move into rotations.

How Many Math Rotations Do you Run Each Day?

Since I typically have about 60-70 minutes of dedicated math time, I like to run 3 rotations each day. My groups of students will rotate to an Independent Work rotation, to the Meet with Your Teacher rotation, and either a Math Centers, Math Games or Technology center rotation.

What Do your Guided Math Rotations Look Like? What Activities are Students Doing During Each Rotation?

Below you can see an example of what a daily math rotation would look like:

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As you can see, students will be rotating through a seat work rotation (which is just independent math practice), a math games rotation and of course, will meet with me at my teacher table for targeted and differentiated instruction.

Here’s another example of a daily math rotation you might see in my classroom:

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In this example, you can see that instead of math games, I’ll have my students go to the Tech Center that day and work on Reflex Math, Prodigy, IXL, Moby Max or 99 Math.

Sometimes, I’ll put two tasks into one rotation, like in the example below. You’ll notice that the word problem task and seat work task are in one rotation. When I do this, my students know that they can work with a partner on the word problem portion. But, once they finish solving the word problem together in their own math journals, they then go grab their independent work and complete their seat work independently.

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Some days I like to combine two tasks into one rotation. For example, students will work on a word problem first, then their independent math activity for their seat work task.

As you can see in the rotation slides above, I love using seat work as one of my math rotations. It’s simple to prep and it allows students to get that daily paper/pencil practice that they need in order to master standards. You can read more about my favorite seat work activity below:

Click here: Why Math Sorts make the PERFECT Independent Math Activities Rotation

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How Long are Your Math Rotations?

My rotations run between 17-19 minutes. At the end of each rotation, I give my students no longer than one minute to clean up, and to show me that they’re ready for the next rotation.

How Many Groups Do you Have?

I divide my students into three groups, so about 7-8 students in each group. Some teachers may think this is too many in a small group, but it’s worked great for me (this would be too large for a reading group in my opinion). I much prefer to have 3 groups and be able to spend more time with them versus 4 or 5 groups and less time with them.

The other reason I like to run 3 groups, is so that I can see each group EVERY SINGLE DAY. Some teachers who choose to run 4 or 5 groups, may only see two groups one day, and two the next day. I just can’t do that. I feel that I NEED to see every student, every day so that I can give them targeted instruction daily. That’s so important to me.

How Do Your Students Rotate? Do They Get to Choose Where They Go? Do They Rotate Together As a Group? How is this Structured?

My students do not choose which rotation they want to go to next. I give my students choice throughout the school day, but not THAT much choice. Hehe 🙂 They must follow the board and rotate with their small group according to what’s displayed on the rotational board.

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How Do Students Know When to Rotate to the Next Rotation?

At the end of each math rotation, I ring my doorbell. I purchased mine from Amazon. You can find that here. When they hear the doorbell ring, they immediately know to begin cleaning up. Once they’ve cleaned up, they know to go back to their desks, push their chair in, and stand up directly behind their chair in silence. This is the routine I’ve taught my students and expect of them each and every time they hear the doorbell. 

Heres’ a picture of the doorbell I use. You can buy one here.

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How Do You Group Your Students?

Before starting a new math unit, I give my students a pre-test. I use the data from that pre-assessment to form my groups. I group my students by ability (using the data from the pre-test).

How Do You Display Your Math Rotations?

I’ve used both a regular bulletin board to display my math rotation cards, as well as, digitally projected them onto my screen. I really like using the bulletin board version because then I can use my document camera and screen for my small group lessons.

Some years, I’ve used the digital version because well, the world has shifted and technology is taking over. While other years, I’ve used both. So, some days I might use the digital slides and project the rotations onto my big screen, while other days I may want to use my screen for my lesson so I’ll tell my students to refer to the bulletin board for their rotation schedule. It’s nice having that option, so that’s why I’ve included both options in my Guided Math and Reading Rotations pack.

But, you can’t go wrong with either option. You’ll want to use the version that works for you and your management style.

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What Questions Do You Have?

What other questions do you have about guided math? Post them below in the comment section – that way I can create additional blog posts to help you!

Thank you for reading and being here!

<3 Nesli

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Nesli