Math Rotations – Creating Groups


Today’s focus in my Math Rotations blog series is on how I group students for Math Rotations.  This post will cover how I group students, number of groups, and how I use flexible grouping for Math Rotations.

How I Group Students:

I group students for math groups using a pre-test.  Last year I created pre-tests for each large unit I teach, for example, place value, addition, subtraction, graphing, shapes, etc. and use that to form my groups.

Prior to teaching the standards and skills for a set unit, students take the pre-test.  When I give the pre-test out I explain that this is just for me to help teach them.  This pre-test does not go in the grade book it just shows me what they know.  The positive to using a pre-test is I get a read on where everyone is at prior to teaching the content.  I can quickly identify my students who have never seen the material before and also ones who have a solid grasp on it already and need extension activities.  This made my teaching life so much easier and made it even easier to form groups for Math Rotations.

After grading the pre-test (remember not for the gradebook, just for me) I could quickly identify what my students needed in regards to the specific skill.  I would then form my four groups for Math Rotations.  Some math units I would have two lower groups, a medium group, and a high group.  Some skills I would have one low group, one medium group, and two high groups.  (My Group 1 tends to be my struggling kiddos, Group 4 tends to be my high kiddos, and Groups 2 and 3 can depend based on the content and student’s needs).   Using the pre-test to help divide my class into groups helped ensure that I was tailoring my instruction to what my students actually needed.  I still teach the standards, I still make sure my students master the standards, but because of the pre-test I was able to quickly see where I needed to start for each child/group.

Another key thing to keep in mind and an advantage to using these is the groups are flexible.  Billy might be in Group 1 for addition because he really struggles with strategies, but he might be in Group 4 for geometry because he understands shapes.  We don’t want to pigeon hole kids into groups, but we do want to identify where each child is at for different skills.

Patterns Pre-Test
Number of Groups:

I highly recommend four groups for Math Rotations.  My rotations include: Teacher Time, Seat Work, Game, and Tech Time (more info and ideas to come on these later in the series).  Yours might differ depending on your math curriculum and class needs.

I also recommend at least four groups so that your group sizes can be kept as small as possible.  It’s ideal to have 4-6 kids in a group, but I do understand some class sizes make that challenging.  The smaller the groups, the easier it is to differentiate and tailor your instruction, but again I understand some class sizes are large so you may need to have larger groups.

Example of Math Rotations Groups Page
Example – Math Rotations Group Page
Flexible Grouping:

As I mentioned in the pre-test section, flexible grouping is key to Math Rotations.  My groups are always fluid.  Sometimes I will place a child in Group 1 because on the pre-test they struggled and didn’t understand.  Sometimes that child will surprise you after a day or two in groups and you might need to move them up to a different group. This can also go the opposite way. Sometimes a child might show that they understand it on the pre-test, but when working with them you don’t feel like they really grasp the concept.  Again – you can move them.  That’s the beauty of flexible grouping – no one is ever stuck in their group.

I also like that groups are dependent on how the child does with a specific skill.  A child isn’t in the low group for the entire year just because they struggled with the first math concept you taught or your beginning of the year assessments.  The groups are based on how each child does with each skill, which really tailors to the needs of the child – not just a one-time evaluation or assessment.

If you missed my past posts from my Math Rotations Blog Series, click below…

FREE Math Rotations Planner

Photo of Math Rotation Planning Page for teachers to use to plan out their math block.

Math Rotations can seem a little overwhelming at first especially when you are trying to differentiated to meet the needs of all of your students. To help make this easier, I’ve created this digital or printable planning sheet that you can use to plan out your whole rotation for the day – standards, mini-lesson, rotation activities, and differentiated small group activities. This is a FREEBIE that you can sign up for HERE. Happy math planning!

Math Rotations Long Pin

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