Guided Mathematics in the Primary Grades (K-3)

Area(s) of Focus: technology, math, kindergarten, curriculum
Division(s): Primary
Level(s): Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3

This project explores guided math as a framework for math instruction. A numeracy continuum of key ideas was created with next steps to support targeted guided math instruction. Tasks were created to support independent learners during guided math.

Our project explored how to use a guided math framework to support the academic success of all learners in our math classrooms. We believe that a guided math approach to mathematical instruction will encourage students to show their thinking, question others, deepen their understanding and take risks as learners. Current research suggests that guided math provides students with responsive, differentiated instruction that supports their conceptual understanding of mathematics. A particular focus was using a continuum of key mathematical ideas related to numeracy and matching next steps so that we could improve targeted instruction in guided groups. We built differentiated independent tasks to improve meaningful student learning and activity during guided math instruction.  

Team Members

  • Chantel Smith

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Cristina Santos

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Stephanie Hindle

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Bridget Cerre

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

The goals of this inquiry were to build upon our conceptual understanding of mathematics, develop our understanding of guided instruction in math, and develop resources and lessons for guided math groups and reflecting on our instructional practices. We then worked on a continuum to help move students’ thinking forward. We engaged in reflective dialogue concerning challenges encountered when attempting to work in small guided groups (i.e., keeping the rest of the class engaged in meaningful, independent tasks). In order to meet these goals, we collaborated with each other to co-plan (e.g., develop next steps for various stages on continuum). Furthermore, through conversations and review of student assessment and student thinking, we reflected on how to improve student achievement.

Activities and Resources

Day 1:

We reviewed our numeracy assessment tools (created from Alex Lawson’s What to Look For, the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum and multiple other sources listed in Step 5). We reviewed our independent materials created in last year’s TLC to support the math workshop and guided math instruction. We determined areas of growth from last year’s learning and identified areas of need.

Day 2:

We created materials to support meaningful independent student work during guided instructional times (co-operative games, play-based activities, investigations). 

Day 3:

We completed the continuum of key ideas and planned next steps to address gaps in each key idea. We looked at select student assessments, plotted them on the key idea continuum and determined next steps for select students and teachers.

Unexpected Challenges

  • The occasional teacher shortage in the OCDSB was an unexpected challenge that hindered our release time needed for planning and observation in the classroom
  • The regular teacher workload from day-to-day planning, teaching and assessing at times made it hard to implement some of the desired assessments and next steps in a timely manner
  • Due to varied teacher schedules, EQAO testing and a lack of occasional teachers, we did not get to do our observations of a kindergarten, Grade 1/2 and Grade 2/3 classroom as intended

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Our project helped us to feel more confident with teaching math through a guided approach. We can see measurable progress in our students and an increased level of confidence and growth mindset or willingness to try new tasks. As teachers, we can confidently identify key ideas in the numeracy continuum. This helps with grouping students for guided instruction to fill gaps in learning. We can also more confidently identify what next steps will be to target those gaps. One area of need we had identified was what to do with students when they are not working with the teacher in a guided group. We spent a day creating meaningful tasks that could both be guided activities and independent activities. This will help avoid some of the off-task behaviours that may arise during independent working times and develop meaningful independent practice.




We have already shared some of our project results (guided math, key ideas continuum) during informal discussions with colleagues, division meetings and staff meetings. We plan on further sharing our learning and resources with our colleagues thorough:

  • Staff meetings (PowerPoint, small group discussion, printing or sharing continuum and tasks with Google Drive)
  • Google Drive

Project Evaluation

We consider our project to be a success. We can determine success because of the following:

  • We feel more confident with teaching math through a guided approach
  • We understand how a student might progress on the continuum of learning related to number sense and numeration
  • We can see measurable progress in our students
  • Our students are feeling more comfortable with math
  • We have a toolkit of activities to engage independent learners while guided math is happening
  • We have concrete next steps related to each key idea on the continuum to facilitate planning for guided groups

What we would have liked to do to further our learning:

  • We would have liked to have spent more time collaboratively planning math mini-lessons and activities for guided math groups based on our assessment data on particular students


Resources Used

Parrish, Sherry. Number Talks. Math Solutions. Sausalito, 2014.




Lawson, Alex. What to Look For: Understanding and Developing Student Thinking in Early Numeracy. Toronto, 2016.

Small, Marian. Open Questions for the Three-Part Lesson. Robicon Publishing Inc. Toronto, 2015.

Thinking it Through (2010). Thinking Mathematically. Toronto, Ontario: Elementary Teachers’ Foundation of Ontario.


Moss, Joan, Bruce, Catherine D., Caswell, Bev, Flynn, Tara and Hawes, Zachary.

Taking Shape: Activities to Develop Geometric and Spatial Thinking. Pearson Canada. Toronto, 2016.

Conklin, Melissa. It Makes Sense! Using Ten-Frames to Build Number Sense. Scholastic Inc. Sausalito, 2010.

Conklin, Melissa and Sheffield, Stephanie. It Makes Sense! Using the Hundreds Chart to Build Number Sense. Math Solutions. Sausalito, 2012.

Resources Created

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