My POV: Math Lessons: Group Configurations – What Works

I’ve had a few opportunities to sub in kindergarten and observe math lessons taking place. I do have to admit as a substitute teacher I am not involved in the math lessons and concepts developed from the beginning to the conclusion of a math unit. But as an experienced kinder teacher I feel I can add my POV.  My main take away in this unit (and others) is that language plays a great factor in children’s understanding of the math concepts. When my kinders were not able to explain their thinking in words, show me what you mean was my go to option. One of the kinder math units focused on Ordering by Size, Length or Weight. There have been teacher directed lessons as well as many hands on opportunities to explore.  We have been using Singapore Math in our curriculum for a few years (when I taught kinders as well), and now the school has formally adopted the Math In Focus Program throughout all the grades.

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I knew I wanted to write about math and a post I saw from Aviva Dunsiger @avivaloca on Twitter, had me thinking! So from observing kinders exploring math concepts to looking at what class configuration works best, I get to this post.

I saw concepts introduced during morning meetings whole group lessons and then explored in math rotations during the Daily 5. Questions were asked, some eager kinders called out to demonstrate what they understood and some wanted more clarification to understand the concept. I observed lessons presented in half groups with the teacher encouraging the kinders to share their thinking as they problem solved as they used  rekenreks or when they compared lengths. I listened as they worked with partners or solo depending on their needs and strengths. I saw excitement in their learning as they ran over to show me what they discovered.

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Kinders start the day with play as they build with a myriad of manipulatives, connectors and blocks. They figure out how to make things work; the language, collaboration and discovery is amazing. How this fits into math can’t be diminished in value.


For young children distractions are inevitable (whether internal or environmental) and given the opportunity to learn in whole groups, half groups, small groups or one on one does makes a difference and impact the learning. We often talk about “strategies” in reference to literacy, but I see instilling math strategies of equal importance. Scaffolding learning, differentiation not only in tasks but in differing group configurations and as they work in their ZPD can ease students into accessing information to meet their needs. I feel that understanding how kinders, and all students, think and process information is key to this process. Metacognition is important in understanding how one gets from here to there.


What have been your successful ways of engaging your students in math learning? What take-a-ways do you have either from this post or the one from @avivaloca?




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6 Responses to My POV: Math Lessons: Group Configurations – What Works

  1. adunsiger says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this as well as mentioning my post! It’s really interesting to see how different people address full class versus small group versus individual learning. My PD a couple of weeks ago has me thinking about this topic more. I’d be curious to know how others decide when a full class lesson is best versus a small group. How do you combine a bit of everything? How do you reinforce these math concepts in meaningful contexts (including through play)? Thanks for giving me more to think about!


    • faige says:

      More to consider, hmm. Whole group lessons may introduce a concept & then reinforced w/small groups or 1 on 1. ‬This I think when lessons are those that are part of the curriculum program. However I feel that when we watch children at play and listen to their conversation, sometimes that discussion provokes a question, thought or an idea that begins a new stream of learning; math and more. And then grouping is decided by the situation on hand.

      • adunsiger says:

        Thanks Faige! I almost feel as though your final thoughts are the thinking behind the new Ontario FDK program. But then, does this present other challenges, as students are then constantly at different points?


      • faige says:

        Good question and that’s the challenge that I hope scaffolding and differentiation addresses. I once read a quote by a rabbi that said (and I paraphrase): “not to view a challenge as a challenge but as an opportunity.. it is the greatest thing we can do.” I think about that quote often.

  2. adunsiger says:

    Love that quote, Faige! Something great to remember.


  3. Nice post! You may wish to check out my post on Singapore Math: Nice post on Singapore Math! I have an article on Singapore math:

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