Tips to Plan and Prep for Math Workshop or Guided Math


While there may be times that you want to use a traditional whole group model for instruction, there are other times you need to work with small groups in order to differentiate for your individual student’s needs. Math workshop (or guided math) is a very successful way to work in small group instruction time and maximize student learning. To make the best use of your time, planning and preparation are key. I have rounded up some of my favorite tips and resources here:

1.) Plan how to use your time! I like to start my Math class with a quick warm up and skill review and then move onto a mini-lesson when needed. Some new concepts can be taught to the whole group quickly and then reinforced in centers / stations. Some need longer time. This is where you have to decide what is best for your classroom, but a few helpful blogs have great ideas for scheduling:


2.) Find or create a simple lesson plan template and/or small group template:

3.) Set up a binder to keep schedules, plans, templates, and notes.

4.) Pick and post your rotation system.

5.) Group students by ability or interest. Grouping should be flexible and change often based on student’s individual needs.  For example, sometimes you may need to group students who need re-teaching on a specific skill and other days you may need to group students based on interests when planning projects. Another idea is to sometimes work with students you know will need extra help and pre-teach them a skill you will be teaching the whole class later in the week. This can save you time re-teaching later and will help boost their confidence and success when the class learns the skill.

6.) Teach your students the expectations for groups.

7.) Set up an organizational system and teach your students how the system works.

9.) Reflect and Plan for Next Time:  When you get to the end of the schedule, take some time to reflect before setting up the next rotation.  What worked? What was confusing? etc… This is also a time to look at your student groups and decide if you need to change anyone to a new group.

For more ideas, check out my Pinterest Board “Guided Math”.


6 Fantastic Place Value Activities


Are you looking for some great place value activities for your classroom! Let me share 5 of my favorites today!

1. Place Value using Task Cards:  These task cards are perfect for reading 3 and 4 digit numbers!

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2. Comparing using Task Cards:  Use the task cards for a fun comparing game!

more place value games

3. Ice Cream Matching Cards: Use these cards to match expanded form, standard form, word form and expanded notation.

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4. Place Value Spinner Game:  I love these cute spinners! Fun way to review place value!

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5. Matching Game: Use these cards to practice place value!

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6.   Notes, Practice Pages and Problem Solving.  Cute Graphics, notes and 24 pages of practice!

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You can find them all in my place value bundle on TpT:


5 Free Resources for Place Value

Looking for FREE place value resources? Well, here you are! These 5 free place value resources are terrific!

1.  Math Coach’s Corner has a free download for ten-frames and a great explanation of how to use the ten frames for place value understanding!

2.  Check out this free download with printable pages for decomposing and composing whole numbers.

3.  How about a place value game with stacking cups! Seriously fun!

4.  Play Money is so helpful when teaching students about expanded notation!

5. These dice boxes from Undercover Classroom are so cool!  You can download the labels for free!


Clever Ideas for Organizing Math Stations

organizing math centers

These clever ideas for organizing math stations are going to help keep your classroom tidy all year long! Each tip is clickable and will lead you to more details about organizing the math stations.

  1. Use colorful storage drawers with wipe off labels to rotate your current centers throughout the year.

the teacher studio

2. Use empty frosting cans to store card games.

frosting cans

3. Store your manipulatives with or near your centers.

4. Use zippered pencil pouches for centers. (Free labels here.)

5. Gallon sized Ziploc bags are super helpful.

6. Label clear shoeboxes for simple storage.

7. Number your baskets or bins for each center.

8. Prepare Math tubs ahead of time.

9. Wide plastic drawers are great for organizing centers.

10. Use a pocket chart and colorful labels to keep track of groups.







Expanded Notation Made Easy(ish)

I am not sure when I learned how to write numbers in expanded notation, but I am certain it was not in 3rd grade. Students now are expected to learn how to write numbers in expanded notation as early as 3rd grade here in Texas and I am sure that applies to other states as well.  But why?  It is part of a push to help students understand the relationships between places and digits in our base ten number system.  It can seem difficult at times, but with hands on activities and a lot of practice, your students can master expanded notation.

One method I find to be very effective is using play money:


Give your students a number. Guide them to use their play value money to model the number.

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Then ask them “Ask “How many hundred thousands?” Tell “Expanded notation shows the number in each place times the value of the place, so 3 hundred thousands is 3 x 100,000.”

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Continue questioning and guiding students to use play money to help them write the numbers.

free place value money

You can download my play money for FREE by clicking the picture above.


For more great place value ideas, check out my Place Value Board on Pinterest!



Using Money to Understand Place Value

I like place value blocks. They are a great concrete model for helping students to understand the relationship between ones, tens, hundreds and thousands. Students can count the blocks and set them side by side to see that ten ones is the same as one hundred or that one hundred tens is equal to one thousand. I also think it is important to use other examples for students to find meaning in the base ten system. In early grades we see students bundling straws and or popsicle sticks to learn grouping in tens and hundreds. A lot of teachers have students bring in objects to count on the hundredth day of school and sort them into groups of ten to see the relationship between ones, tens, and hundreds. These are terrific! But … what about older students? What about the relationships in the thousands, millions, billions?
For years I used blocks to teach and review base ten from ones through one thousands and then showed the students the patterns on the place value chart. One year I borrowed thousands cubes from other teachers to show my students a concrete example of ten thousand. (It was tall). This is a great concrete example for a lot of the students, and I still use the blocks (see my blocks post here). But not for all. So, what other models can we use with older students?

Money! Yup! Students seem to like talking about and playing with money! So I started using that play money from my manipulatives kit to help students see that the relationship between place values isn’t always about size, sometimes it is about WORTH (value)! So I took the fives out and we would use the play money to practice trading 10 ones for a ten, 10 tens for a hundred. And then I showed how that pattern repeats on the place value chart. Works great! But … most sets of play money don’t have the bigger bills … so … I made my own play money!

free place value money



Now I have bills from the ones to the millions! I had a student ask me last week when we were working on this if there was really such a thing as a ten thousand dollar bill. I told her I wasn’t sure, but maybe we could research money to see what kind of bills the US Mint makes! Maybe I will have time to do that tomorrow! 😊

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