Successful math students are the ones who have developed a deep understanding of concepts, are fluent at computation, and are able to use what they know to solve real problems. Flexible math groups allow students the chance to flex the math muscles that build these skills in meaningful ways. Teachers can effectively differentiate instruction using small groups when teaching new concepts, building existing skills, and modeling math processes. These math groups allow for remediation or enrichment and are ideal formats for the ongoing assessments needed to drive meaningful instruction.
So how do you go about setting up effective small math groups?
- Determine the big ideas of the unit of study based on the goals and needs of your students.
- Observe your students – informally and formally. You choose what is most meaningful in driving your instruction – pretests, formative assessments, performance tasks, anecdotal records, and daily observations.
- Compile and review information. Look for strengths and deficits to determine the needs and teaching points for each group. Can some students support or model positive learning behaviors for others?
- The groups should be flexible! Consider these possible options: homogeneous or heterogeneous – based on interests, tasks, student choice, student learning profiles, readiness, ability, partner teams, small groups, center activities, project groups, team contracts, problem solving groups, independent studies, enrichment, or remediation.
There is great value in flexible small math groups. The ongoing use of student data allows us to plan more responsive instruction that better meets students’ needs. Working in small teams builds students’ self-confidence and provides a safe place to take risks and implement new strategies. There is greater engagement for all levels of students because the content is interesting and appropriately challenging for each team. When our students are given respectful tasks, their attitudes improve, they grow in their reasoning, learn to make sense of problems, and develop the perseverance to solve them. Research has shown us that intelligence is like a muscle that can grow when exercised regularly, so let’s flex our math muscles in flexible small groups.
At Education Resource Group, we recommend and support the implementation of Laney Sammons’ Guided Math framework. Small group lessons target the specific learning needs of students through differentiation. To read more about small group instruction, check out the work of Laney Sammons and Guided Math: myedresource.com/shop