Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guided Math, Chapter 3... It's Not Too Late to Join Us!

We're moving on through Guided Math by Laney Sammons and arriving at chapter three!

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 three is hosted by two wonderful bloggers. For an elementary school viewpoint, stop by to see Tania at My Second Grade Sense (You'll enjoy how she framed each of the components of the chapter in colorful frames!)

To get a middle school teacher's perspective, click on the graphic and visit Michelle at Making It as a Middle School Teacher (You'll love her sweet accent and another video!). Michelle also offers a Stixy link as well as a place to link up with other teachers involved in the Guided Math book study.

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 third chapter in the book is entitled:
          Using Math Warm-ups in Guided Math

Chapter three in Guided Math begins with a suggestion that students begin each day with a math "warm-up" because "participating in a variety of brief mathematical activities during the first 20-30 minutes of the day leads students to make subtle mental shifts into the world of mathematical awareness and learning" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.48).

These tasks may vary from day to day, but will be most successful if the expectations for behavior and academic work have been carefully taught. Repetition of tasks will also support the students' ability to see patterns, to make generalizations, and to connect to real-life examples. Warm-up activities should be work that students can complete independently and should involve problems that can be discussed later in the day.

Math Stretches
Sammons discusses several different types of Math Stretches which could be adapted to meet the age and skill level of the students in the classroom. If you teach primary grades, Tania at My Second Grade Sense has included some key examples in her chapter summary. She provides an easy-to-read overview... with pictures! And Michelle at Making It As A Middle School Teacher discusses the use of Math Stretches in middle school classrooms--a commentary which applies quite well to upper elementary settings.

Math Stretches can center around different topics:
  • Data collection and analysis (Collecting, graphing and analyzing class data)
  • Number of the day (Recording different representations of a number)
  • What's next? (Recognizing patterns and relationships)
  • How did my family use math last night? (Discussing real-life connections to math concepts)
  • ______ makes me think of... (Charting connections to a math vocabulary word/phrase)

When creating these lessons, the teacher should keep in mind that math stretches...
  • are brief
  • can be completed independently by the students
  • prompt the students to think mathematically
  • generate mathematical communication
(Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.86)

One way of implementing Math Stretches involves scheduling the same task on a particular day of the week (for example, students would do a Number of the Day stretch every Monday). This familiar routine facilitates a mental readiness for mathematical problem-solving that comes from knowing what is expected. However, Sammons points out teachers can choose any Math Stretches to meet their students' needs, keeping in mind that the goal is to provide a quick mathematical 'mind focus' as students begin each day (Guided Math, Laney, Sammons, 2010, p.87).

Mathematical Current Events
Sammons suggests integrating math into any discussion of current events. This approach allows students to make a connection between mathematics in the classroom and mathematics in the world around them. Led first by teacher modeling, students could be invited to bring in articles that illustrate the use of math in real-life settings, such as stock market quotes, weather details and sports coverage. This discussion can, in turn, lead to an examination of bias and validity of statistics reported in the news, allowing the students another opportunity to think critically about mathematics.

Mathematics-Related Classroom Responsibilities
In order to emphasize the connection of math and everyday life, students can explore the relationship of math to classroom responsibilities. For example, students might be assigned the task of taking attendance and then analyzing the percentage of students present or absent.  This data could then be graphed and analyzed further or compared to data accumulated over time. The goal is simply to provide students with multiple opportunities to look at math as it touches their lives in the classroom each day--beyond textbook examples and practice pages.

Calendar Board
Sammons considers the Calendar Board to be "one of the most versatile teaching tools in elementary education" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.92). The use of Calendar Board activities provides an opportunity for the systematic introduction and review of concepts that will be covered throughout the school year.

Using Calendar Board in the classroom:
  • gives students support in learning mathematics incrementally as they develop their understanding over time
  • provides visual models to help students recognize mathematical relationships
  • fosters the growth of mathematical language acquisition and promotes student reasoning ability through mathematical conversations
  • promotes algebraic thinking
  • allows teachers to informally assess students' mathematical needs and then adapt instruction to meet students' needs
 (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.93)

The author provides numerous examples of the many ways in which math skills can be integrated into a Calendar Board lesson.  She includes notes and illustrations for tying in graphing, place value, estimation, geometry, measurement, money and more. Sammons states further, "the variety of specific elements that can be included in a Calendar Board lesson is limited only by a teacher's creativity" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.95).

I know my "commentary" is supposed to go in the space below, but I am including it here because it extends the material in the book. The chapter provides a comprehensive view of Calendar Board activities that could easily be utilized in elementary classrooms with students through fourth grade. While a teacher might use this information as a springboard for designing activities for older students, there is another resource available...

Without a doubt, the BEST teaching resource that I have seen for Calendar Board math for upper grades comes from Stephanie in Teaching in Room 6. The link provided takes you to a (wonderful) VIDEO of her Guided Math instruction using a Calendar Board. For upper graders, calendar math can be used to discuss fractions, decimals, percents, prime/composite numbers, and many other math concepts. In the video, Stephanie demonstrated how she utilizes gestures which afford an additional learning tool to help students access the vocabulary and math concepts. I generally have several struggling learners and a number of English learners in my classroom each year. This approach greatly supports their ability to access the information. (This same post offers clickable links to other aspects of guide math instruction. Stephanie has guided many of us into the use of calendar math in upper grades. I hope that you will stop by her blog. There is so much to learn there)

My first reaction after completing the chapter was one of uncertainty. Our day begins with a multi-part literacy block, and math takes place after recess. It might be confusing to the students to have to transition from opening routines to math and then to multiple literacy groups and activities. Sammons stresses the importance of teaching students the routines of warm-ups, so it is possible that, knowing the routines, students could complete these tasks in succession. Our math block is one hour long, so discussing the stretches in the first minutes of math time might be feasible. "Math stretches" could supplement the "warm-ups" we have previously done. At this point, I can see using a combination of these activities and the warm-ups (often games) I have previously used.  I so often find that we need more time!

Reading Guided Math has promoted an awareness of the need to connect mathematics instruction to more real life experiences. Keeping this in mind as I plan my  math lessons will allow for students to have more answers to the "Why are we learning this?" questions that inevitably pop up when teaching tweenagers.

I am excited to pursue the Calendar Board activities presented by Sammons and illustrated by Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. There is so much potential for consistent review throughout the school year (as opposed to three weeks before The Test). I think that the systematic nature of this activity will make it much easier for the sixth graders to catch on to new concepts--and the gestures will also appeal to the kinesthetic learners in the group.

As I make my way through the book, two components continue to stand out: 1) Connecting to examples of mathematical constructs in the real world and 2) Providing instruction in a systematic, sequential way that draws upon previous learning and includes multiple opportunities for review. This type of "spiral curriculum" is helpful to all learners and circumvents the "turn-the-page-and-forget-about-it" instruction that remains prevalent in many classrooms.

Chapter four will address "Using Guided Math with the Whole Class." This chapter is being hosted by Brittany at Sweet Seconds and Katie at Once Upon a Teaching Blog. Please check out their chapter commentaries.


And check back on me too! Since I have just posted about Chapter three, you could order your book today and still quickly catch up with me.

We'd love to see your name at the bottom of that Linky list!


  1. Gosh, that was a LOT of info . . . I've been out of the classroom too long cause I don't even know what "spiral curriculum" is . . . I'm enJOYing math vicariously through you and your thorough posts.

    Meanwhile, I'm trying to plow through Conscious Discipline, but I'm finding that I much prefer short and succinct posts to a big workbook-sized read.


    The Corner On Character

  2. This is such valuable info! I am so glad I came across it. I am going to look back to chapters 1 and 2.

  3. Buzz Buzz Buzz sent me to say hi!

  4. This looks like a great book to read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  5. What a great post, you really gave me some insight! I haven't picked up the book, but it is on my list!


  6. This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing what you have learned so far with us. I am def looking to change my math block and this has given me some ideas.

  7. Thanks God to Lacie Brown giveaway I was able to find your blog, you are awesome, thanks a lot for sharing such valuable information with us!!!!!

  8. This looks like a great book! I'll have to add it to my summer reading list!

  9. Thanks for sharing this book with us.

  10. I bought the book from Amazon and then found out I'm teaching reading... womp, womp.

  11. I found your blog through Polka Dots and Pencils giveaway- I am leaving you a comment to gain another entry. ;-) I teach 2nd grade, but I look forward to reading more of your blog soon!

  12. Hey There!

    I was wondering if you could help me out! I am having a discussion about your TOP 5 favorite books for middle schoolers! Come join me!

    Mrs. Crouse @ {6th Grade} All-Stars

  13. I use Calendar Math in my classroom and it has really helped my students with their basic skills and reinforce the skills we learn throughout the year.

  14. I'm barely on chapter 3!!
    ❤ Sandra
    Sweet Times in First


Thanks for reading this post. Comments bring me JOY! Please share your thoughts and join the conversation...