How to Set Up Successful Guided Math Groups

For Guided Math to run smoothly, groups need to be carefully planned. I'm often asked about how I do this, so today I'm sharing my tips for how to set up successful guided math groups.

Photo of Guided Math rotation board on chalkboard with text, "How to Set Up Successful Guided Math Groups"

When I set up my Guided Math groups I very rarely separate my students based on grade. I don't let the curriculum dictate what I do in my classroom, but rather let the strengths and needs of my students guide my teaching.

At the beginning of a unit, I like to begin my teaching with a picture book. This is a great way to engage your students and put a topic on their level of understanding.

I am Amanda Bean and I love math. I know all about counting. I am very good at it. I can count by ones, twos, fives and tens. - from Amanda Bean's Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander

After reading, I give my students a short task to complete. These tasks can vary greatly from one math topic to the next. I generally use:

While my students complete the task, either independently or in pairs, I circulate and observe how they approach the activity. I ask questions such as:

Why did you do that?
How did you get that answer?
What does this part mean?
What was your reason for doing that?

I use the iDoceo app to record my anecdotal notes and complete checklists indicating what my students can and cannot do. 

Once I have this observation data, I can create my groups. Since my Guided Math program is based on four groups (Math With Someone, At Work On My Own, Teacher Time, and Hands-On: Manipulatives), I aim to create four groups with my students.

Image of Guided Math group rotation board.

My groups are based on similar strengths and needs among my students. I begin by placing my neediest students into one group and my students who have demonstrated the most strength with the topic into another group. I then look at the data for the remaining half of my group and decide on how to split these students into two additional groups.

Of course, it is important to look at the groups to identify any possible issues or combinations of students that may not work - students who don't get along easily, etc. Remember that three of your groups will be working independently, and you need them to function without your direct supervision while you're teaching a Guided Math lesson to the fourth group.

As the year progresses and I know my students better and better, creating groups gets easier. I already know many of their strengths and needs, so the performance I observe is rarely surprising to me, and I know which students to separate.

It is important to remember that your Guided Math groups should remain completely fluid. If a student is not fitting well in a particular group, move them to another. You should never feel like once a group is set that you're stuck with that arrangement. My groups change all the time!

If you're ready to get started with Guided Math, be sure to grab my FREE Guided Math Starter Kit right here:
Photo of Guided Math Quick-Start Guide freebie

You might be interested in these other posts about Guided Math:

Photo of math tools with text, "How to Get Organized for Guided Math."

Photo of math tools with text, "How to Accomplish Differentiation in Guided Math."

Photo of math tools with text, "How to Effectively Track Student Progress in Guided Math."

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Photo of math tools with text, "How to Set Up Successful Guided Math Groups."

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