Guided Math: A Closer Look into Math Rotations [Part 2 of 3]


If you missed the first post in this series about how to implement guided math, you can go back to [this post] to read "Part 1: The Overview" in my Guided Math blog series. I share the "why" behind Guided Math and how the students rotate through the stations including a sample schedule and rotation chart.

My students use the Math TIME acronym for center rotations and small group instruction. In Part 1 of this blog series, I explained what each letter stands for (see below) and today we will dig a little deeper into what each of the stations look like in my classroom.


Math TIME: T is for Technology


Devices for the Technology station can include iPads, [Amazon affiliate link] Kindle Fires, [Amazon affiliate link] Chromebooks, old iPhones (donated by parents), computers, or student-owned devices if you have a BYOD policy.

There are also many options for technology programs that are research-based for your students to use. Some options include:
  • XtraMath: This is a FREE program that practices math fact fluency. It gives the students a placement test, then provides practice on the specific fact program chosen by the teacher and the specific facts the students missed frequently on the placement test. This individualizes learning for the students.
  • Prodigy: This is a FREE program that can be customized by the teacher to focus on the content being learned at the time. It also begins with a placement test. It is game-based and is highly engaging for the students.
  • Dreambox: This is a PAID program that is research-based and provides instruction on the students’ individual ability level. It is self-paced and also highly engaging for the students.
There are many other options for technology programs out there. These are the ones I recommend most when people ask how to implement guided math with a technology rotation.

Math TIME: I is for Independent


The Independent station is just that - the students working independently to practice the skill taught at the Explore station (explained below). I typically use a written form of practice at this station so that I can have a formative assessment in order to plan my instruction based on student needs.

I will often use my Common Core Math Quick Assessments at this station. I like that these assessments are a quick, one-pager that shows mastery of the content standard. These assessments are also extremely helpful if you used standards-based grading or report cards. You can check them out by clicking [HERE] or on the pictures below. They're available for grades 1-3.



You could also use interactive notebook activities, written responses, exit slips, a workbook page (if you are required to use a textbook series), or any type of performance task that demonstrates understanding of the content.

Now this next point is an important KEY component when thinking about how to implement Guided Math in your classroom. There can NEVER be any downtime. Basically, you must have a procedure for everything! This includes the question, "What do I do if I get finished early?" We all know that idle time in the classroom is a great excuse for students to quickly get off task. So we must always have a solution.

What if I finish early at the independent station?

In my classroom, if students finish their work at the Independent station early, they must work on math fact fluency. With that being said, I do allow for some choice in how they want to practice. They can choose [Amazon affiliate links]: 
Picture links to the items above can be found here:

Math TIME: M is for Making Meaning


The Making Meaning station is all about giving the students hands-on, interactive, game-based practice with the content. This is where your students will use manipulatives, game boards, dry-erase materials, etc. to practice the content skill in an engaging way. No Worksheets!

The biggest tip for this station is to keep it simple! Try to avoid constantly changing out this station with centers that are going to take time and money to print, laminate, cut, and bag. Use items that you already own or that you can find super inexpensive at a local Dollar Store or Amazon. 

What exactly do the students do at this particular station and how does this station not become a time-sucker? I will go into that in GREAT detail in Part 3 of this blog series, so stay tuned! It is a blog post all in itself! You can get a sneak peek at one of my time-savers by checking out this blog post [HERE] all about my 2nd Grade Math Centers. You can check out the blog post or find them on TeachersPayTeachers [HERE] or by clicking on the picture below.


Math TIME: E is for Explore


The Explore station is where the MAGIC happens! This is where you will reach your students like never before!

Differentiated Lessons: With 4 different rotations and 4 different groups, you can literally teach 4 different lessons, if needed, depending on what your students. For example, if we are working on the concept of multiplication in 2nd grade, my green group (low) might simply build arrays and count to find the total number. My purple 1 and purple 2 groups (below-average and average) might build arrays, write a repeated addition sentence, a multiplication sentence to match, and skip-count to find the total. My blue group (high) might be working on their multiplication facts and patterns within the multiplication table if they already understand the basic concept of multiplication.

Small Groups: Student groups are typically 4-6 students depending on your class size. With this number of students, you can literally be 100% hands-on with their learning. It's much easier to keep 4-6 students on task during your lesson than 30 right?

Materials: Instead of needing a class set of math manipulatives (which can get extremely expensive), you only need 4-6 sets. Only 4-6 sets of dry-erase boards and markers, only 4-6 sets of game pieces, only 4-6 sets of workmats, etc. I think you can see the point here! So much easier to manage when you're working with 4-6 students at a time rather than 30.

Know Your Students: You will quickly find that you learn your students' needs, strengths, struggles, and misconceptions so much better in a small group setting. Listen to their reasoning, understand their thinking, and address this in each and every lesson at the Teacher Table. It's quite amazing how well you'll know your young mathematicians in the Guided Math approach.

So there you have it - A Closer Look into Math Rotations! I hope you found a few more ideas and tips for how to implement guided math in your own classroom. Don't forget that Part 3 of my Guided Math blog series: Budget-Friendly Math Centers. I think it will be especially helpful in showing that you can easily implement math centers without breaking the bank. See you soon!

Up Next is Part 3:


Need to Catch Up? Check out Part 1:


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  1. I love how you do these math rotations. It makes sense to teach in small groups. I'm wondering if it's a noisy time in your classroom or if you expect the students to be working quietly.

  2. How do the kids check their answers?

  3. Do you change out the independent work, and games daily? I see that you have the technology designated for specific days but what do you do for the other centers after each group rotates through them?