Sometimes you feel like your curriculum (or your standards) reach only the middle in math. Maybe it’s your curriculum or how you’re teaching. . . but your strugglers get left behind or your advanced kids get bored in whole group.

You teach whole group and never get to small groups, or you’re never able to meet with them enough to make a difference. How do we build mathematical brains and a better math block that works for us and our students?

It can all be so confusing when you’re trying to differentiate *and* teach new concepts or skills. Try this simple step-by-step path to building a math block everyday that works for you and your students.

**Step 1**. Decide to do whole group, small group, or a mixture of both. The best time to teach whole group is when you’re beginning a new skill or unit. Teaching in whole group allows you to model a new skill, assess current levels, and check for understanding after modeling.

However, whole group math is ineffective when you have several different levels within a specific skill set. Some kids excel at fluency yet they’re confused about geometry.

For example, let’s say you’re introducing graphing coordinate pairs. You engage the class with a hook to determine what they already know or you give a pre-assessment. Then you model the skill. Afterwards, you determine which small group they’ll be placed in depending upon their needs.

A good rule of thumb is to use whole group to introduce a skill but move into complete small group instruction for a few days until they’re all ready. If you find that a handful of students aren’t ready developmentally—it’s time to move on. Spiral back for those kiddos later.

Here’s more guidance if you need a little help teaching small group math.

**Step 2**. Go from simple to complex—concrete to representational. When you start any new unit, begin with the simplest step first and move into the complex. For example, if you’re teaching volume, first teach what volume means, move slowly into the formula, and then devote time for practice. Your week in math should be going from simple to complex, building on each other.

First they need to understand visually what the numbers—or standard, like measurement or volume—look like in form. For example: What does 10 x 10 look like, represented with objects? What does volume mean? What does an inch look like?

After you build each day, going from simple to complex, concrete to representational, they’ll have a solid math foundation. You’re creating those neural connections to grow their math brains—and grow their abilities in the future!

Math is a foundational skill that builds through the grade levels, of course. If they leave your grade without the foundation, they may get further behind in each level. With math (and with much of learning) you’re going from the known to the unknown.

You’re the architect of a better math block—creating something amazing, one block at a time.