Independent Math Activities for Guided Math

During guided math, I have 3 rotations that my students complete each day. Today I’m going to share with you how my students complete independent math activities, which you might also call independent work or lesson work. Whatever you decide to call it, these are the independent math activities students work on when they leave teacher table.

Not sure how to get started with guided math? Read all about getting started on this post!

How to run the independent math activities station

Right after teacher table, my students complete independent math activities at their seats. Each guided math group has their own independent work folder, and I keep the activities inside of it on the right.

This is a picture of three folders for independent math activities.
These folders are part of my Guided Math Rotation Organization Binder!

When students complete their independent math work, they return it to the same folder, but they put it on the left side. If for some reason they do not finish their independent math work, they put it back on the right side.

Differentiating Independent Math Activities

Differentiating independent work is something I feel is very important in my guided math block. Just like my different groups have their own folder, I fill each folder with different activities.

These first and second-grade math printables are already differentiated!

I like to keep the activities as similar as possible! For example, in the independent activities above, the first worksheet has numbers to 20, but the second worksheet has numbers to 100. Try to have similar independent work for your groups! I love using these Monthly Differentiated No Prep Printables where each worksheet comes in three levels!

What do I do if students aren’t finished?

I get this question a lot! What do I do if students don’t finish their independent work during the time allotted?

There’s no right or wrong way to handle this, but here’s what I do… I try very hard to not make this station busy work. Before choosing independent work, I try to look at what I’ve chosen with a critical eye and ask myself a few questions.

  • How many problems am I asking students to solve? If it’s a page full of tons of problems, it’s too much! Circle FIVE problems you want your students to complete, or better yet, let them choose the five they want to complete!
  • Does the page have any coloring, writing, cutting, or gluing involved that might extend this for longer than the time for stations? If so, maybe make this a TWO DAY work. My students always love coloring, so if we have a color by code for independent work, I have them solve the problems on the first day and then color on the 2nd day!
  • Is this work at the appropriate level for my students? I’ll be honest, I don’t always get it right. I’ve chosen work that’s been too hard before… IT HAPPENS. On those days (yes, it’s happened more than once), I talk about how I chose something that they weren’t ready for YET. And then I pull it to use at teacher table the next day!

If I have a student that has just wasted independent work time, I have them make it up at another time. Usually, I have them do this the next day during morning tubs, which they hate missing! I’ve also had students make it up during free choice Friday time. This usually works!

What if students finish early?

Honestly, that’s my goal! Rotations last about 20 minutes, and if students finish independent work in 10 minutes, that’s a win in my book!

When students finish, I have them practice math facts on the iPad. Since we’re a one-to-one school, that’s always been pretty easy to do. However, if you aren’t one-to-one with devices, here are a few activities you can always have prepped that students can choose from:

Free Differentiated Math Resources

I know it can be so hard and time-consuming to find resources that are differentiated. That’s why I put together this FREE Differentiated Resource Toolkit filled with math centers, independent work, and activities that come in multiple levels to make differentiation a breeze!

Want more help with guided math? These posts can help you:

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