Small Group Math Instruction

When I launch Guided Math, I set a personal goal to begin small group instruction by October.  This allows weeks of setting expectations, setting up positive peer relationships, and getting to know student needs.  Right as the first quarter comes to a close, I feel ready to fully release the workstation time so I can meet with students for small group instruction.  As we do Guided Math year after year this happens perhaps more quickly, but a great goal is beginning small group instruction in October.


Plain and simple, teacher-led small group math instruction is when students take a new skill and directly apply it in close proximity to the teacher.  In a guided math classroom, this happens daily or as close to daily as possible.  We conduct math mini-lessons in a whole group format and follow that up with meeting with students in small groups where they directly apply the math learning in a way that is developmentally appropriate to their specific needs.  Students are at the center of the learning rather than being passive observers of someone else doing math.  The way we carry out the math differs from group to group based on the skill and the range of abilities.

This year more than ever we see a gap in skills and abilities that is expansive.  The more we teach, the further we feel the ones who are not ready fall behind, but the standards don’t stop.  One way we can work through this pandemic recovery is to give students this time in small group instruction.  Filling in the prerequisite skills may not be fully attainable for every student, but we have a much greater ability to support students and teach to those areas of concern when we see them in small group daily.

This Math Milestones download is a free guide of the stages of math development and prerequisite skills that can come in helpful when we see a student struggling and perhaps don’t know which skills to fill in first.


Being able to sit down and become invested in small group instruction means a lot of small variables have been handled.  To keep it simplified, for each expectation I want to have in place for my students not with me in small group, we make a pattern of procedures and then practice it.  Over those first few weeks of practice, these patterns become our normal way of behaving.  When you feel the autonomous pulse of the room taking shape, it makes it easier to let go of the control of whole group and allows students to be independent.  Students will always have great days of peer interactions and learning and days where it feels like we all just forgot what to do.  Don’t let this derail your morale.  Provide that feedback during class meetings and try again!


While management of student expectations is one aspect of running small group instruction, the other is having the materials and lessons for the guided math classroom.  This involves both teacher-led lessons as well as student workstation materials.  Having the planning and materials at your fingertips allows you to focus on teaching the individuals in the room and addressing those math needs as they arise.  When I prep materials for guided math instruction, it gives me the assurance that my students will have great things to do for years to come.  The time and effort spent now allow you to grab and go next year.

small group math instruction


Over the last six years, I have worked to create standards-aligned whole group and teacher-led small group math instructional materials.  These materials are used in school districts as both the main instruction and as supplemental resources.  Guided Math provides all of the teacher-directed lessons with materials for both whole group and small group instruction.  Having the lesson plans and materials to teach both in the whole group and small group setting allow the teacher the freedom to focus on student need rather than designing lessons that adhere to the standards.

sample guided math

Kindergarten Guided Math Materials
First Grade Guided Math Materials
Second Grade Guided Math Materials
Third Grade Guided Math Materials
Fourth Grade Guided Math Materials
Fifth Grade Guided Math Materials


In each Guided Math grade-level bundle, there are nine units covering nine math strands.  Every lesson is standards-aligned.  Each unit contains the following:

  • Math Warm-Up
  • Whole Group Mini-lesson
  • Teacher-Led Small Group Lesson
  • All Materials
  • Pre- and Post-Assessments



If you have attended a Guided Math workshop with us, you may be familiar with my method for workstation time called Math STACK®.  The acronym simply consists of the five types of workstations I choose to have going during the independent workstation time for students.  I stay at the S for teacher-led small group table while students visit all five choices during their workstation time.  This doesn’t have to be done in one day.  Some teachers choose to have less than five stations.  Perhaps your classroom runs on three stations.  Whatever the case, maybe you can get some ideas and resources for the following workstation choices.  For grades K-5, we have materials for each one of these workstation choices for the entire year.

These math stack links contain the guided math bundle above plus all of the STACK bundles for workstations as well.  It’s a large number of materials, but each workstation bundle can also be purchased separately.  This is the best way to help you find the materials.

Kindergarten Math STACK
First Grade Math STACK
Second Grade Math STACK
Third Grade Math STACK
Fourth Grade Math STACK
Fifth Grade Math STACK



When it is time for math intervention, I can admit that I struggled.  I never felt the materials matched the student needs.  Using the precious moments effectively hinges on having the right resources at my fingertips.  This not only includes the remediation and enrichment lessons, but the progress monitoring tools too.

No matter where you are in launching Guided Math, I hope I can encourage you to keep on going.  Teacher-led small group instruction is vital for meeting student needs.  Students may struggle with being independent, but given the right amount of engaging materials, structure and expectations, and your invaluable time and teaching, it is such an effective way to run the math block.  I am passionate about how this structure can really change how students feel mathematically and create a happy and effective learning environment for both teachers and students at the same time.


We offer school and district-level Guided Math Professional Development via Zoom or in-person.  We would love to come share the passion of the Guided Math structure sharing our application of each component of guided math plus so many important topics like creating standards-based lessons, differentiation, and management!  THIS POST can help provide more information on this.  You can forward to your administration or book directly if you are a math coach or administrator.


If the idea of small group instruction is new or you have not yet tried to set up the structure of Guided Math, I have a free Guided Math LAUNCH GUIDE.  This guide can shed important information and provides your first 20 days of setting expectations and introducing workstations.


Below are some other related posts that may help on your journey of Guided Math.  Feel free to always reach out through comments here or the contact me on the side panel of the website!

How to set up Guided Math K-5

Guided Math Grades 3-5

Scheduling your Math Block

Math Rotations


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