Setting Up Your Math Block for Success

July 25, 2022 No Comments
Don’t Miss the Bus

As elementary teachers, one of our primary goals is to set our students up for success. We want our students to know where materials are and to be able to use classroom resources independently while we work with small groups. At the beginning of the school year, I spend a lot of time teaching my students how to access and use the materials in the classroom. I sort my students into data based groupings and assign them to groups (which change based on data) using the MATH acronym.

M = with me
A = at your desk
T = technology
H = hands on

I use a Google slide for my board because I find it easier to change than a math printable chart. If you prefer a printable chart, I have included links to some paid and free options that are available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Elementary Edventures

Fantastically Fourth Grade

Fifth is My Jam

Lorren Meyer

Paiges of Learning

Sweet Tooth Teaching

I find my Google slides templates on SlidesGo, SlidesMania, and SlidesCarnival.

I use all of the following resources and activities during our math block:

So, you might wonder, how do students reach a level of independence with all of these resources? Well, it doesn’t happen overnight and begins with modeling, practice, and more modeling and practice. 

During your first unit of instruction, you want to make sure that the resources for A, T, and H are easy to find and use. That way, you can use your M group to teach more challenging activities without interruptions.

What does that look like? I’m glad you asked. I’m going to use our decimal and fraction number sense unit as an example. 

  • M – I have 3 sets of decimal and fraction cards: one with decimals only, one with fractions only, and one with decimals and fractions. I start with introducing the fraction cards. With a small group, I would put 4 or 5 fraction cards on the table and begin with “What do you notice?” and repeat their observations. After everyone has had a turn, we can begin comparing fractions 2 at a time and then ordering 3 of them at a time. (You can differentiate the ordering lessons by using more or fewer cards.) After students have had time to compare and order the cards and discuss their observations, they can play matching or war games and you can add the cards to a math center.
  • A – During this unit, I use mostly self-correcting resources like puzzles, color-by-code, and other printable worksheets. I create many myself, but I also find freebies on Teachers Pay Teachers and worksheets on Super Teacher Worksheets. (It’s only $25 a year and it’s TOTALLY worth it). I also use Break the Code packets all year because my students LOVE solving them.
  • T – Your school or district might have a site that your students will use for practice and review. My district uses ST Math, but I have also used DreamBox and IXL in the past. ST Math is gamified and conceptual. It is great for English language learners because problems and challenges are presented without written directions. The links are not affiliate links; I’ve provided them so you can do your own research and see what might work best for your students.
  • In addition to using ST Math, my students use Khan Academy which is free and my students LOVE it. I also use a variety of Google forms, slides, and sheets activities that are self-correcting and engaging.
  • H – Finally, for hands on, I have games that students have already learned and practiced in small groups with me available for independent practice. They may also use manipulatives with a purpose or play games such as 24 Game

For every unit, I group students using pretest and exit ticket data, work with the M small group, and switch out the A T H groups daily. Early finishers may use technology or complete an additional paper assignment. It works well. 10/10 would recommend.

Here is a link to a FREE sampler of games and activities for your math centers from me AND a collection of incredible free resources from some of your favorite (or soon to be favorite) upper elementary creators. I would love to hear about how you use them. Please feel free to tag me on Instagram @amazingmaterials4you if you share photos or reels of the resources in action. 


Currently, I teach fifth grade and have taught fifth grade since 2011. Before teaching fifth grade, I taught third grade, first grade, kindergarten, preschool, baby and toddler music, college, and graduate school. I am a mom of two daughters, a Maltese dog, and a tuxedo cat.

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The letters of my first name inspired the name of this blog and the names of my other business ventures, so when you think of me, just remember AM4Y. I started my teaching journey in 1987 and have taught every age from babies to fifth grade as well as college and graduate school in Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Colorado, and Virginia. I have a B.A. in English and Psychology from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and an M.A.T. in curriculum and instruction from The University of Memphis. In addition, I have completed more graduate work at The University of Maryland and The University of Colorado, Denver. I am a mom of two young adult daughters and a cute Maltese dog. When I am not teaching, you can find me traveling, reading, hiking, or cooking. Read More

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