Saturday, September 14, 2013


I know, I'm such a sad little blogger.  I haven't even managed to write one thing since school started. I'm really not lazy...  just pathetically disorganized.  Once school starts, life is over for me.  It's all I can do to get myself there and back every day.  One thing is going exceptionally well though this year and that's math.  Before I explain what I'm doing, let's get one thing out there... I hate to teach writing.  It's the WORST!  If I ever get called into the principal's office and told that I have to move to 4th grade and teach writing all day, I will probably quit or at least cry like a baby.  Thank God for my partner teacher.  She handles all of that awful writing and I get to do math every day.  Yaaaaaay!! I love math!

Last year I started using math journals on a more regular basis.  They are SO much better than those rotten math workbooks we get.  The kids are much more involved and they really have to attend to the task because they are "writing the book" so to speak.  So this year I have basically ditched the workbooks completely and we are only using journals.  I've split math into two parts: morning math meeting and guided math/centers.  If you don't have time for a morning math meeting, no worries... just have an afternoon math meeting or a before-lunch math meeting, whenever you can fit it in - as long as it precedes your guided math group time.  Here is what a typical day of math looks like for me:

Morning Math Meeting:
  • Students sit on the rug with their math journals.
  • I sit in my comfy blue chair next to the easel.
  • Students open their journals, write the date, and close their journals. 
  • I pose a math "situation" to them, usually some sort of dilemma I have involving either brownies, cookies, or rabbits invading my vegetable garden. I also use my math problems to accuse my partner teacher of eating many pieces of candy from the candy jar, 20 or 40, sometimes even 100.
  • I tell the students what strategy I want to use but it always involves drawing some sort of model and a number sentence because these are strategies I want them to become proficient in. Some days I also use a part/part/whole, sometimes a number line, sometimes "friendly numbers" etc. The key is to use a variety of strategies so they become familiar and fluent with them all and understand that any strategy is okay as long as you get the right result. What I don't want to happen is for the kids to get stuck on only using a standard algorithm or a single strategy and think there's only one right way.
  • I work out the problem, using my chosen strategy, while thinking aloud. I always make sure to talk about how I know what operation to use. How can I tell if I should add or subtract? I don't tell them what to do. I just let them hear me think through it.
  • After I model my strategy, I invite them to help me write a new problem on the chart paper. I call on students to add to the problem and we always make sure we end with the question.
  • We work through the new problem together, using the same strategies I just modeled. I call kids up to help write on the chart and show our thinking.
  • Finally, I give them their own problem. They open their journals, copy it down, and then solve using our strategy for that day or any other strategy we've already learned. But they MUST always show a number sentence to go with it because at some point, they have to move away from drawing a picture every time.
  • After a few minutes, I ask them to partner up and share their work.
  • After sharing, I ask, "Whose partner used a great strategy to solve this problem?" The kids raise their hands and nominate their partner who then gets to come up and show their work on the chart.
  • That it's - same thing every day - I do, we do, you do - with whatever skill we are learning. The whole process takes about 30 minutes per day. The kids love it, I love it, and they are doing awesome in math this year!
Later in the day after specials, we do guided math. If you already do guided reading, adding a guided math time is a cinch. Here's what it looks like:
Guided Math
  • Students work at math centers related to the skill we are learning. I usually give them a variety of games and task cards (see below for ideas).
  • I call small groups or individuals to my table for individualized instruction based on their needs and what I observe during morning math meeting.
  • It works very much like small group reading time.
  • Students come to the table with their whiteboards and markers. Sometimes I do direct instruction (with or without manipulatives) and sometimes I play a game with them to reinforce a skill.
  • Small group math is the BEST for reaching every student and catching problems in math before they get bigger.
Right now we are working on the first two standards in the Operations and Algebraic Thinking strand. My math centers consist of a dice game (like bump), Hot Dots, multi-step problem task cards, and a math facts game called Kapow:


So that's how I do math! We don't use worksheets or workbooks and we are all about explaining our thinking. If you have a blog post about how you do math, please link up below:


  1. I'm not liking teaching writing much right now either, but it's mostly because I just can't do it in 30 minutes time! My partner teachers math and I always think she gets a whole 90 minutes just for math lol. Grass is always greener on the other side!

    Literacy Spark

  2. Rats!! I missed the linky party... My whole blog is about math!

  3. I LOVE this post. You really gave us a good insight to how you teach math in your classroom. I would love to switch over from primarily using the curriculum to primarily using guided math and math journals. I just started teaching in a new school district that is all about using the curriculum and following it the way that it is designed which basically drives me crazy!!! Quick question for you have your journal problems compiled into a document that can be purchased? I would love to read more of your examples!