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You know Guided Reading - But What about Guided "Mathing"?

Posted by Mollie Shaw on

Those of us who have had the magical experience of teaching a child to read have led the student in guided reading.  Guided reading is the act of coaching a new reader as they learn to decode letters, figure out words, see new patterns and become fluent with sentences.  Guided reading may include pointing to letters so that the child's eyes are on the right spot, asking for him to reread something to practice it correctly, and asking him about the meaning so that comprehension is confirmed.  Small bits of content, like a letter’s sound or a word’s pronunciation,  are shared at just the right time, at the point of need.  The student is doing almost all of the talking.  The teacher is tracking the development of the skills.

Similarly,  guided math coaching techniques will lead a child to know where to focus his attention in a problem, how to identify a familiar pattern, and to know the meaning of the math concepts.  How does a teacher do that?

The teacher is the key to all learning.  On-line learning has tossed teacher-led instruction some major curve balls.  Teachers and learners both are struggling to find the guided interactions that are so necessary for leading active students into new abilities at their best pace.  Study after study has confirmed that the quality of the teacher-student interaction is key to student development.

In Math, here are some suggestions for guided math sessions.  

  • First, sit beside your student.  Have your own pencil and paper.  
  • Second, ask him or her to read the directions or explain the task.  
  • Third, ask him to define some of the words.  It is great if they already know them!  Math vocabulary is often the stumbling block for students who are learning new math skills.  A word like area or difference have multiple meanings to kids.  The new math meanings must be explicitly taught and practiced.  
  • Fourth, review what parts of the task are already known.  For example, in teaching subtraction, you might ask the student to simply read the numbers, name the place value for each digit, ask how to line up the numbers, and which is greater and which is lesser in value.  
  • Fifth, you work the key example from the textbook lesson, asking him to describe your steps as much as he can.
  • Sixth, have him work the same example, again, explaining the steps and the why behind each step.  Do it yet again until confident fluency is secure.  Then he can work the assigned problems.
  • Seventh, allow the student to check his own work against your work or the example key.  See if he can explain his process and understand what led to the mistake.  
  • Eighth, have the student not spend time on those he missed by doing corrections.  Instead, have him rework a problem that he got correct a couple of times, having him explain his process in his own words.  Then perhaps go back to the missed items.   
  • Finally, don't take his pencil or write on his paper.  And, never talk when he is thinking and struggling to figure it out.  Just wait.  If he is really stuck, ask him to tell you what he is thinking.  Don't start covering everything all over again.  He only needs the one missing piece.  Be sure to affirm each correct step, even if he has done it for years.  Remember that the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning.  Make sure your student can explain it to you, to the dog, to a sibling.  By talking about how to do the problems, the student will create self-talk memories that will come back on test day.  


Yes, guided “mathing” is just as important as guided reading in building your students confidence and independence.  Let me know if you would like more coaching on how to be your student’s best math coach!  

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