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Functional Math Stations with Differentiation

Welcome to part 5 of my guided math series. So far we’ve discussed how to set up your math block, I’ve shared a guided math breakdown, talked about establishing procedures, and shared some of my favorite must have materials. You can check out any of these posts by clicking on the links below.

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.


Today we are going to be talking about how to create functional stations that run smoothly in your classroom by creating the right groups and we will also talk about how you can differentiate your stations easily.




First lets talk about student grouping. Here are somethings you need to decide.
-How many groups are you going to have?
You want to keep your groups small and manageable.

-How many students do you want in each group?
I have 5 groups and have no more than 6 students in a group.Most of my groups have 4-5 students.

Remember that Flexibility is Key!!! You want to be able to easily move students to a different group throughout the year.

Now how do I keep up with all this? I keep all of this information in my Guided Math Binder. Let me tell you now that I am a very Type B person but if I didn’t use this, I would be lost. It is something I’ve had to make myself use and I’m so much more organized for it. This binder includes several different group page options from 4-6 groups.
Easily manage your math groups with this guided math binder. It includes multiple options for planning, data, and so much more.

I use this organizer page along with sticky notes to keep track of my groups. I write the group name in each box and then use small sticky notes with student names so I can easily move names around when needed.

Easily manage your math groups with this guided math binder. It includes multiple options for planning, data, and so much more.


Now lets talk about how to group students. There are two different ways to do this.
1: Mixed Ability
2: Same Ability

What are the benefits of mixed ability grouping?
--It allows students to peer teach. I often say that sometimes students learn best from one another. They learn from each other and are motivated to keep up with the group.
- -Different strengths and weaknesses are working together.
- -Teacher will pull kids from different stations to the small group table.

What are the benefits of same ability student grouping?
-    -Teacher can focus on instruction based on students individual needs.
-  -You can provide tiered instruction to each group.
-  -The teacher is a rotation during small group time rather than pulling students away from different groups.

I choose to group my students by same ability and then my stations are differentiated to meet individual needs. Now I know what you must be thinking…how does she differentiate. It’s really very simple.


 Differentiation can be easy when done right. Sometimes it takes a little extra prep but not always. I have two different systems.

Use task cards with differentiated recording sheets. In the example shown below, I have the exact same set of task cards but each group may be working on a different place value skill. 

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.


I keep everything sorted by using a color system. You can use any three colors you’d like. I use these:
Orange- lower students
Green- average students
Blue- higher students

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.


I use these colored stickers to label each set of answer sheets. Each group knows what color they are assigned too. This way each group is using the same set of cards but each one is focusing on a different skill. This activity can be found in my Back to School Math Stations pack or in the Yearly Bundle!

I got tired of trying to find all these different activities that were the same but also different for my students to work on. That’s when I took matters into my own hands and started to create differentiated stations that would meet the needs of all my students.  All activities include the same activity in three different levels.

I run each activity off on a different set of colored paper. I buy the large packs on Amazon and they usually will last me most of the year. Again, orange is for my lower students, green is average and blue is high.

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.


In my addition set orange (set 1) goes to sums of 10, green (set 2) goes to sums of 15, and blue (set 3) goes to sums of 20. They can all be using the same set of manipulatves or different ones.

Here the activity is the same, it is just using different numbers. The same recording sheet is used for all three.

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.


Each set is also labeled so even if they aren’t ran off on different colors, they won’t get mixed up.

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.

Here is a look into the subtraction set. I'm using the same three colored and they follow the same rules as the addition set. Set one covers the difference from 10, set two the difference from 15, and set 3 the difference from 20. 

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.

You can also easily differentiate with dice. I bought this set of Whiz dice a few years ago and love it. It comes with over 100 dice with numbers up to 100. For my lower groups they may be using regular dice where my middle groups my be using a 2 digit die and a 1 digit die and my higher groups using two 2 digit dice.  

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.

Here, I am doing the same activity with groups but they are working on two different levels. 

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.

Differentiating your math centers doesn't have to be hard. In this post, you'll learn how to easily differentiate your math station activities so that all of your students can work on the skills they need.



Need help with differentiation? Please feel free to e-mail me and I’ll be happy to help. I hope this post gave you some insight on how to easily set up your groups and differentiate your small group instruction.

Easily manage your math groups with this guided math binder. It includes multiple options for planning, data, and so much more.


This is a set of 8 differentiated subtraction games to use all year long in your classroom. It features partner games, task cards, and QR codes. Each game has 3 leveled sets and all are in black white so that you can print onto colored paper for differentiation.


This is a set of 8 differentiated subtraction games to use all year long in your classroom. It features partner games, task cards, and QR codes. Each game has 3 leveled sets and all are in black white so that you can print onto colored paper for differentiation.

Coming Soon! 
Place Value (almost finished)
all other 2nd grade math standards


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Must Have Materials for Math Stations

Welcome to part 4 of my guided math series. Today I’m going to share some of my must have materials needed to implement guided math successfully in your classroom. You can check out the first three parts of this series by clicking on the links below.

This post contains affiliate links. You can see my disclosure here


Have you ever wondered what materials you need to get started with guided math? This post is full ideas from storage to math manipulative. Come check it out!


When setting up tour classroom, you want to have a designated space where all of your math stations materials can be accessed easily. All of my manipulatives and tools are stored in clear tubs so that my students can easily see what is inside. Make sure that station baskets are labeled along with different manipulatives so that materials do not get mixed up.




Here is what my area looks like. I got these baskets from the dollar store years ago and they’ve held up well over the years. You can also use Sterlite drawers or plastic baskets to hold center supplies and activities.



Each basket is clearly labeled so that students know where to put materials when finished. Inside each basket everything needed for that activity goes inside. If I accidently forget to put something in they can most likely find it in their math tub or on this shelf that holds commonly used supplies.


This is my math station area. Is everything perfectly labeled? No, but it is organized and it works for me. The pink and purple baskets you see on the middle shelf hold dice cups, money cups, and dry erase markers. The small container you see on the right side of that shelf holds Target mini erasers. I got it at Michaels. The Sterilite containers on the bottom shelf hold all of my monthly math stations. The colored drawer cart to the right holds all of my stations that I have by concept. 

You also want your rotation board on display where students can easily see where they are going. If you don’t have wall space for a large display, you can also use a digital rotation board. I like to display this one with the names of each activity for each group. It is EDITABLE so you could easily change the text to show students names or station directions.

This rotation board includes three different group types:
-animals
-colors
-numbers

You can easily customize it to meet the needs of your classroom.

Now lets talk about some basic supplies that I use daily to run math stations smoothly. Click on the link to purchase.

Dry Erase Pockets: I use these for EVERYTHING!!! Rather than running off 23 recording sheets, save some paper and run off a few copies and slide them into these sleeves. Students can write their answer with a dry erase marker. If you’re wanting to hold students accountable for their learning, they can do one of the following:
-quickly bring their sleeve up to you for a quick check.
- take a photo using a smart device of their work for you to check later
- take a photo and upload it to SeeSaw (an online student portfolio that makes student/teacher communication easy and fun). This allows you to leave comments on student work.

Dry Erase Boards: If student work can be done with white boards, save that paper and let them use them.

Transparent Spinners: I love these because they can be used with any type of spinner activity. No more paperclip mess!

Whiz Dice: Every teacher needs these in their classroom. They are the best way to differentiate activities. The best part is that you can get 200 random assortment of different types of dice to use all year long.

Number Lines: I love these because they are durable and plastic. Your students can write on them with a dry erase marker and it will easily come off.


Ten Frames: I made these myself. They are double sided with single and double ten frames. My students use these a lot throughout the year. You can grab them here for FREE! 

120 Chart: These I also made myself because a class set of durable 120 charts can also be expensive. I printed them onto cardstock and laminated them so they can also be used with a dry erase maker. Grab them here for FREE! 

Number Cards: You can use printable cards or a deck of cards from the dollar store. I keep several sets on hand to use with games and creating numbers.
I recently purchased these large playing cards and my students are obsessed with them. They are perfect for whole group lessons. You can grab them here.

Linking Cubes: These are one of my favorite manipulatives. They can be used for so many activities and are great game pieces too.

Some of my other basic manipulatives include:

Hopefully your school already provides you with most of these supplies. I know that purchasing materials on your own can add up quickly. I try to get a few little things at a time and then I hoard them like crazy!

I hope this post gave you a good place to start as far as gathering supplies needed to get you started. Do you need everything featured in this post to run guided math successfully? Absolutely not. Do what you can with what you have. You can also find tons of printable manipulatives for free online.

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Want to save this post for later? Pin the image below.

Have you ever wondered what materials you need to get started with guided math? This post is full ideas from storage to math manipulative. Come check it out!

Have you ever wondered what materials you need to get started with guided math? This post is full ideas from storage to math manipulative. Come check it out!

Have you ever wondered what materials you need to get started with guided math? This post is full ideas from storage to math manipulative. Come check it out!




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