‘Guided reading may be on the way out, but guided maths should be here to stay’

The school day begins: laughing children, clattering dice, counters and playing cards abound. There’s chatter about numbers, problem-induced struggles and adults modelling and giving feedback. Writes Deborah Harris, assistant headteacher in the Tes

Guided maths is underway.

What do I mean by guided maths? Put simply, it is an additional 20 minutes of maths learning every day. Pupils, grouped by attainment, enjoy numbers: playing with them, talking about them, representing them, wrestling with them, and asking questions about them.

It may have started as a way to squeeze more maths into the timetable to meet the expectations of an increasingly challenging curriculum, but it has now developed into a rich programme that neither teacher nor pupil would be without.

Based on the model of a traditional guided reading carousel, groups move through a range of maths activities throughout the week, sometimes working independently, sometimes collaboratively and sometimes guided by an adult.

A whole class approach is just as important for maths as for reading, increasingly so as a mastery approach dissipates through our pedagogy. If certain groups of pupils are not exposed to difficult concepts, or a ceiling of careless or unnecessary differentiation is imposed, they may be protected in the short term, but in the long run, it assures they will never be able to catch up with their peers.

The power of guided maths sessions is the opportunity they present to teachers to respond to pupil needs precisely. The organisation of pupils into attainment groups is key and distinguishes the sessions from the usual maths lesson.

This seems controversial in the face of both my earlier comments and key educational research that promotes mixed attainment teaching. However, by grouping pupils with a common level of understanding, teachers can reach them in a way that enables more to keep up, more to develop a love of mathematics and more to reach a deep and meaningful understanding.

The emphasis on talk and peer support adds to the enjoyment and encourages participation by the most reluctant of mathematicians. There is talk about representations, maths in storybooks, everyday situations and objects. It is accessible to all and without limit, as increasingly precise vocabulary is used and mathematical links are noticed and verbalised.

Read more about guided maths ‘Guided reading may be on the way out, but guided maths should be here to stay’

Do you use guided maths or reading? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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