I love teaching mathematics to small groups! Teachers all readily agree that the smaller number of students you have, the easier it is to reach them, to ensure that they are paying attention, and to differentiate based on the needs and strengths of the students in front of you. The teachers I work with often ask me what to do with the other groups though. Here's what we did on this day:
We placed the students into four groups of 4 - 6 students per group. These groups were formed based on their level of development regarding place value. Some students are working with decimals, and some are still working on 4-digit whole numbers. With one hour for math on the schedule, this would give each group 15 minutes at each workstation. These are the stations we used:
Mathletics: At the first station, the students would log on to Mathletics, a mathematics subscription game-based website that this school has purchased for all of their middle years classes. The students can choose between challenging their classmates (or anyone else who happens to be online at the time - from as far away as the UK!) to a basic facts drill race, or practicing new skills, or problem solving, all in a game-based format. The students enjoy Mathletics, and their engagement at this station was high. With every task they complete, they earn points to improve their personal avatar.
Place Value Yahtzee: I came across a Yahtzee game from a blog that I follow called Games 4 Gains. This is an excellent site that has a lot of games for mathematics (and other subjects areas too!). The students choose a game card based on their knowledge of place value (we included the decimal card and the card with 6 digits) and play in groups of 2 or 3.
Place Value War: I found another activity online from education.com that I adapted into a war game. I have included the file in this blog post at the bottom, and it is seen in the picture at the top. Students choose their game mat (again based on their level) and draw one card at a time to build a 5-digit number. The person with the highest number gets the point. To be good at this game, one must realize that the higher numbers must go left on the mat and the lower numbers to the right. The tricky part is the probability aspect: how likely is one to draw a number higher or lower than the one that that was just drawn? Once a card is laid, it is played, and cannot be moved!
Teacher Time: The last station is time spent with the teacher in a small group. I like to plan the same lesson for each group, but adjust the amount of scaffolding I give them. On this day, each student received pictures of a large box, a small box, a package and a sheet of stickers. The idea is this: we are retailers ordering stickers for our store from the wholesaler. The stickers can come in packages of 10 000 (large box), 1 000 (small box), 100 (package) or sheets of 10. For the first activity, I said we needed 20 000 stickers. How can we get that amount? The students easily identified two boxes of 10 000. But what if the wholesaler is out of large boxes? How else could we get that amount? After some prompting, the students decided we could also purchase 20 boxes of 1 000. We continued with the following numbers: 5 000, 45 000, 3 400, 1 470, and 10 080. Each time, we had to purchase the amount of stickers in more than one way. With the groups that were working with decimals, I said that the wholesaler would agree to sell us part boxes or packages. These were the numbers we used: 20 000, 5 000, 50, 3 000, 3 500, 650, 175. Each time, we had to make the amount at least two different ways. So, in order to get 175 stickers, we could order 17.5 sheets of 10, or 1 package of 100 and 7.5 sheets, or 1.75 packages of 100. In order to remember the numbers we used, the students wrote the amounts on sticky notes and attached them to their pictures.
The day went well, with the students all engaged with practicing their place value skills, based on their level of development. In other classrooms, when I've assisted the teaching in implementing a Guided Math routine, we have had groups play a game on the iPads or laptops, board games, dice games, card games, write in their math journal, build a math craftivity, work on a math project... There are just so many ideas I can think of to keep students working independently. The trick is to find activities that they can do with minimal to no adult assistance, and then take the time to build expectations into the routine. The time spent on building the routine should not be rushed - I encourage teachers to take at least 4 weeks to practice working in small groups and rotations before you begin small group instruction.
Let me know if you've tried Guided Math in your classroom. I'd love to hear how other teachers do it! And here's the Place Value War file I mentioned earlier in this post: