What Does Math Look Like in a Kindergarten Classroom?

Ask ten teachers, you’ll get ten different answers. No teacher is the same, so no teacher’s routine will look the same. Anytime I do a math workshop or professional development session on math, the question that I get asked the most is “What does a math lesson look like in your room?”

The first thing that comes to my mind is routine. Math instruction in my room is a routine that we follow daily. Parts of the routine look different from day to day, depending on the standard I am teaching. And, yes, I follow the Common Core Curriculum when teaching students about math concepts in my classroom. I’ve heard lots of views on  Common Core, and I urge you to look up the actual standards and decide for yourself what to believe about them before forming a firm opinion. Common Core Standards are not a program; they are a set of high-quality standards that each child should master before moving on to the next grade level. How a teacher chooses to teach the standards is not necessarily a representation of the standards themselves. Lots of factors come into play when I am deciding how to best present the standards I want my students to master…time allotment, student behaviors, the program I may or may not be using to guide my instruction, and the current data of student progress are major factors that decide how I present math standards and instruction in my daily routine. So even though my content may vary, my routine stays mostly the same. This helps with behavior-both the students’ and mine! šŸ™‚

The second thing that comes to mind is action. Math instruction in my room doesn’t look like stillness and quietness. It involves lots of talking and doing. This is why math stations are an important part of my routine.

The third thing that comes to mind is intervention. I meet daily in small groups with each child in my room. I love small groups because I can work with a student on his or her level more intensively than I could in a whole group setting.

So, here it is! This is what a typical day of math instruction looks like in Mrs. Givens’s room (and add in a few nutty comments and occasional fire drills, tornado scares, and restroom emergencies…hey, it’s kindergarten!).

  1. Read math literature. I use books that deal with whatever standard Iā€™m teaching. I may read a book several times that week to point out the skill we are studying.
  2. Count to 100. We count by ones, tens, fives, and twos depending on how much time we have that day. We may count backwards from a certain number. We may start at a random number and count on from that number. At beginning of year I count to 25 or 50 depending on the level of the class and move up as they are ready.
  3. Count around the circle to find out how many kids are here today. We then fix our “attendance towers” to show how many students are here and how many are absent. We talk about which tower is longer, shorter, has more, fewer, etc.
  4. Weekly Data. Each week, we work with a question on the board to display and interpret data. We have a different task for the data each day.
    1. Make it Monday- we  make the data. I have the question ready and students write their name under the proper response as they come in and unpack. During our math routine time, we count how many names are in each category and record a numeral in each category.
    2. Tally it Tuesday- we add tally marks on the data.
    3. Write it Wednesday- we write sentences to tell about the data.
    4. Thursday Change-up– we show the data in a different way; a Venn Diagram, bar graph, etc.
    5. Figure it Friday– we make an addition sentence out of the data. At the end of the year we do a subtraction sentence, too, if it’s appropriate.
  5. Counting Basket. Our “helping hand” for the day brings us the class counting basket and shows how he/she counted the items in the basket. The kids have already  looked in the basket, then counted out the same number of items in their own personal basket. We talk together about how to record in our journal what is in our counting basket. At the beginning of the year, a child may only draw how many items are in the basket. We move on to using numerals, number words, tally marks, and ten frames to show a certain number of things. At the midpoint of the year, we begin to form addition and subtraction sentences to show the number of items in our basket.
    Math stations involve a large variety of hands-on manipulatives.

    Math stations involve a large variety of hands-on manipulatives.

  6. New Concept Discussion and then Small Group Instruction/Stations. Sometimes I discuss the new concept whole group and sometimes small group. In years that I have lots of children with exceptionalities, I usually like to do small group lessons more than whole group depending on the needs of my students. Stations can be done in so many ways in kindergarten! My teaching friends do all sorts of different stations set-ups. I am doing partner stations this year, where students work with one partner and two  partner sets come to me for small group instruction.
    A student has constructed this addition sentence to explain her arrangement of tiles.

    A student has constructed this addition sentence to explain her arrangement of tiles during partner stations.

  7.  Concept Discussion after stations if needed. Depends on how stations went, I like to come back to whole group for a discussion of concepts learned at stations. This discussion is usually student-led, unless Mrs. Givens needs to “talk shop” about a certain behavior or trend that needs to stop! šŸ™‚


At the Teacher Station

During Math stations, I make myself a station to do intervention and/or enrichment. Each month, I print off a monthly math journal from KetchensKindergarten.com. We usually start off small groups with a page or two from the journal. The journals cover common core standards and are very open-ended for discussions.

After journals, we play a game that goes with the new concept we are working on. Since I have same-ability groups, I can make the game math the abilities of the kids in my group for intervention or enrichment.

Sometimes we may end the small group by doing a quick paper for my records or for sending home to parents.

I understand that I am one kindergarten teacher of many. My routine does not have to be your routine. This is what works for me at this time, this is what makes me feel like an accomplished teacher, and this is what grows my students.

What kind of things are in your math instruction routines? Let me hear from you!

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