Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guided Math, Chapter 2 (and Happy Fourth!)

As part of one of BlogVille's many summer book studies, I reflecting on Chapter Two of Laney Sammon's book, Guided Math. But IT'S NOT TOO LATE for YOU to join in!

If you are interested in joining the study, click on the graphic to the left to get an overview of the Book Study at Primary Inspired. Brenda does a great job of explaining the Book Study adventure!  She has organized this study so that we can all learn from one another.  You can also click on the guided math tab below her blog header. She's got everything organized there!

Chapter two was introduced (by video!) by Dana at Third Grade Gridiron. You can click on the graphic to take you to her discussion of the chapter.

With the help of KPM Doodles' sweet borders, I am addressing each chapter in two parts:
1) What stood out to me in the book chapter and 2) How I might use this new learning to shape the way I teach math to sixth graders....

So, let's get started...

          The second chapter in the book is entitled:
          Using Guided Math to Create a Classroom Environment
          of Numeracy

Before I could make sense of the content of this chapter, I needed a working definition of the word NUMERACY.  Merriam-Webster's online dictionary ( describes numeracy as "the capacity for quantitative thought and expression."  (It also lists the first known use of the word as 1959. Funny, I was in school shortly afterwards, and I never heard that word. We just called it arithmetic!)

Laney Sammons begins the chapter describing how easy it is to walk into a classroom and find clear evidence that literacy is a focus of instruction. Books line the shelves, charts are hung, word walls are arranged, centers are set up, writing is posted... it's just so obvious.

Unless a teacher teaches math specifically, it is often less clear that math is being taught in a classroom and less apparent that a teacher values math.

According to Sammons, Guided Math rests on the following foundational principles:
  1. All children can learn mathematics
  2. A numeracy-rich environment promotes mathematical learning by students
  3. Learning at its best is a social process
  4. Learning mathematics is a constructive process
  5. An organized classroom supports the learning process
  6. Modeling and think-alouds, combined with ample opportunities for guided and then independent problem-solving and purposeful conversation, create a leaning environment in which stduents' mathematical understanding grows
  7. Ultimately, students are responsible for their own learning
Guided Math, Sammons, 2010, p.34-36

Interestingly, Sammons states that these principles are adapted from those outlined by Fountas and Pinnel as seminal to teaching guided reading!

In order to effective implement Guided Math, there are some elements that are critical to success...
1. Building  Classroom Community
In a classroom with a supportive learning community, "each student understands that he or she can and, indeed, is expected to engage in making meaning of his her world mathematically" (Young Mathematicians at Work : Constructive Number Sense, Addition and Subtraction, Fosnot and Dolk, 2001, cited in Guided Math, Sammons, 2010, p.34). Students need to feel respected in their classroom, knowing their efforts at sharing will be valued and supported by others.   Students need to share in the learning process, a move away from the teacher taking sole responsibility for the learning that occurs in the classroom. Teachers need to have high expectations for all learners, being confident that, with support, students who are struggling will feel comfortable and confident and will live up to those expectations. Finally, sharing, communicating, exploring and justifying need to be consistent elements

2. Classroom Arrangement
For Guided Math to be successfully implemented in a classroom, the room must to be arranged to accommodate the elements of the program. There need to be certain established areas: a home area (where supplies are kept and students begin and end their day), a large group meeting area (used as a gathering pace and an area in which calender activities and whole class instruction will be conducted), small group areas (where students can work together with  teacher) and math workshop areas (where students can work individually or in small groups on a variety of tasks. In all of these areas, it is essential that students know the procedures and guidelines for everything from accessing materials to interacting with one another. 

3. Organization and Storage
Here is the heart of one of the foundational principles of Guided Math: An organized classroom supports the learning process. Some materials might be designated for teacher use while other materials are available for student use. Those materials available to students need to be well-organized and easy to access (and return). Containers should be clearly labeled and a specific space should be specified for their storage. It is critical to eliminate materials that are not useful to reduce clutter and to streamline the learning process. Students also need designated places for storing their math journals and turning in their work.

4. A Numeracy-Rich Environment
A numeracy-rich environment allows students to learn through "active engagement in authentic opportunities to use and extend their number sense and develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.48). Consequently, a teacher should consider utilizing:
  • student calendars or agendas
  • manipulatives
  • problems of the day (or week)
  • word wall and vocabulary displays
  • math journals
  • graphic organizers
  • class-made charts
  • tools for measuring
  • math-related children's literature
  • math books by student authors
  • and math connections to other curricular areas
Guided Math, Sammons, 2010, p.49-65

Looking over the list of foundational principles, I am feeling "in sync" with Laney Sammons on most counts...
  1. All children can learn mathematics Believe it/Live It
  2. A numeracy-rich environment promotes mathematical learning by students Believe it/I can do more...
  3. Learning at its best is a social process Believe it/Live It
  4. Learning mathematics is a constructive process I'll have to investigate this one further...
  5. An organized classroom supports the learning process Believe it/Live It (Most of the time!)
  6. Modeling and think-alouds, combined with ample opportunities for guided and then independent problem-solving and purposeful conversation, create a leaning environment in which students' mathematical understanding grows Believe it/A lot more work to do here
  7. Ultimately, students are responsible for their own learning I believe this... but this statement is crying for a caveat of some sort... perhaps the role of the teacher in facilitating this belief by establishing the first several principles on the list!
Regarding those elements that help to shape a classroom in which Guided math can be implemented...

1. Building  Classroom Community
This is the hallmark of the way I run my classroom, and likely the element I am most proud of as I attempt to teach sixth graders. This concept of community will need to be expanded to incorporate Guided Math in terms of respecting all attempts and all approaches, but I don't see this as a remarkable change... just an expansion.

2. Classroom Arrangement
My classroom is set up with six groups of six students. This amounts to a lot of bodies and associated furniture in a fairly small room. We have a large rug we were sit together for some activities so that everyone can see the Promethean board and be close enough to write, move objects and show thwie thinking on the screen.  While the space is large... it is not large enough for all of us to sit facing each other in a circle, even if we sit on the edge of the rug or the surrounding tile. The room just isn't big enough. We end up in a rather squashed oval with a few "outliers" here and there (Hahah! Math humor!) 

3. Organization and Storage
Most things in my classroom are reasonably organized and accessible. However, I am currently considering the idea of "table tubs" filled with manipulatives from which students may choose items to support their learning. Notice I said "organized." The materials and their storage containers are neither "cute" nor "interesting looking" at this point, and rather are more "utilitarian" in nature. I'm trying to determine if changing the presentation might impact the level of interest...

4. A Numeracy-Rich Environment
We often use manipulatives during mathematics instruction. And different students may use different materials at different times for different reasons. Calendar math is new to us, but graphic organizers are standard. We have done some work with math journals and foldables (with guidance from afar from Jen Runde... search her site for all things mathematical at Runde's Room). Math-related children's literature is integrated at some point into most of the units that we study.

Although I have math charts in my room, they are more often "procedural" in nature. The charts may show vocabulary with illustrations or may present multiple ways to solve a problem. They are often re-written after a group discussion because I like my students to look at clear organized charts that support their thinking and learning (and my OCD gets in the way if I have to look at something that is messy or disorganized. This becomes a deterrent to my teaching, and, cyclically, the students' further learning!) There are charts in the room that show that we pursue mathematical thinking. However, the room is not numeracy RICH. I think I have a lot of work to do here. And a lot of thinking!

Chapter three will be covering "Using Math Warm-Ups in Guided Math." This chapter is hosted by two wonderful bloggers: Tania at My Second Grade Sense (You'll enjoy how she framed each of the components of the chapter in colorful frames!) and Michelle at Making It as a Middle School Teacher (You'll love her sweet accent and another video!). I hope you will check in with them when you are ready to tackle chapter three.


And check back on me too! I have made a commitment... and I do much better with friends monitoring me. YIKES! Now I'm falling behind Daily 5 and Guiding Readers. This is more complicated than much of the work I did for my Masters degree! But I am learning a lot... and it's been fun to learn along with all of the other people who are reading together in cyberspace.

And... Happy Fourth of July, BloggyFriends!


  1. I love reading your insights :) I wi be sure to check back in on you!

  2. You are making ME believe that I could have been good at math! WoW; talk about taking it to the next level! Love, love, love . . . your post, your enthusiasm AND the fact that you're almost to 500 followers who are better . . . because of YOU!!

    Happy Independence Day!

    The Corner On Character

  3. I'm bookmarking this because I JUST ordered my copy!! And I rushed it--how bad is that?! I can't wait to get reading and see what everyone is saying about the book. Happy Fourth of July!!!!

  4. What a wonderful breakdown, Kim!

    Glad you're joining us in this book study. :)

    Making It As A Middle School Teacher

  5. I'm so glad to know that I am not the only one focusing on this book this summer! I have enjoyed reading your insights about it. I haven't gotten as far as I'd like due to summer school but I'm getting there. You're giving me the nudge I need :)

  6. Hi Kim, I regularly follow your blog, and truly enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing!!

    I think I may look into ordering this book. (They should pay you commission.)

    One question, how do you do calendar math with 6th graders? This is something I have been interested in doing, but underestimated because I thought it may be too juvenile. I would love to know how you do it.


  7. I have to say, "cutifying" stuff in the room actually does seem to bring out the interest level in my kids. If it looks like it is for "them", even by just putting a new label on it, the kids tend to gravitate more towards it. I say go for it with your bins, and see what happens.

    Teaching in Room 6


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