How to Structure Your Elementary Math Block


Structuring a Second Grade Math Block

Math is absolutely my students’ favorite time of the entire day! They look forward to each part of our block. We have 105 minutes to teach math at my school and I structure it the following way: 

Project Based Learning and Number Talks – First 30 Minutes

Intervention – This is when my lowest students get pulled for remediation. During this time, I alternate between doing number talks and math projects with the rest of my students. I love to do project based learning with my grade level and above grade level kids at this time.  Laura Santos makes great PBL math projects for second and third graders that can be found here. My students love these hands on activities that get them thinking and talking about math in ways that I never thought would be possible before. There are tons of different PBL activities that can be found on TPT. While my kids are working on their projects, I am able to pull small groups that struggled with concepts from the day before or previous units. This is a great way to fill in the gaps and get them ready for what we will be doing later that day. Number talks are another great way to get students thinking critically about math. I will put a problem up on the board and we will talk about what we think the problem is asking, how we think we should solve the problem and then we spend time collecting various solutions or strategies that were used to solve the problem. During this time, I try to have my students work out the problems in their heads. This builds critical thinking skills along with having students come up with non-traditional strategies to solve a problem. I also like the conversations to be student led, which makes planning and executing very easy and engagement very high.


Review & Mini Lesson – 15 Minutes

I spend about 3-4 minutes reviewing whatever topic that we learned yesterday on whiteboards, then give them an inquiry question on how they think we would work through a new problem, then review our target for the day. It is so important to me that my students talk about math, so I always give them a minute to work a problem out alone then a few seconds to consult with their neighbor. Keep in mind that you need to structure this very well at the beginning of the year, making it clear that they shouldn’t just talk about their answers, but should be talking about their solutions and strategies. I make it known to my students that I care much more about their process than their answers. I will ask my students to show me their whiteboards and I will record all of their answers that I see on the front board, then we vote on which is the correct answer. Once we have picked the right answer, we talk about why it is right and why the other ones looked right but are wrong. This addresses misconceptions that students may have had when they arrived at the wrong answer. I also like to make anchor charts with my students at this time. This allows my students to refer back to what steps the need to use to solve problems, and provides a model for how to write their solutions. It is important to make this WITH your students, not beforehand. That way, it is in the students’ own language, and they are watching and remembering the process that is being used.


BUILD Math Centers – 60 Minutes

Have you ever wondered how to make BUILD math centers work in your classroom? This is my absolute favorite part of the day and is my kids’ favorite part of the day as well. I like to see all of my students every day at my back reading table. During this time my students do BUILD rotations around the room. Like I have said before, math is LOUD in my room! If you set it up well though, it is also really productive and collaborative. I always give my students the option to work alone or with their groups during math time. Depending on how many workshops I want to do and how long we have, I will cut some workshops some days and do all of the workshops some days.

B – Buddy Games – This is where I have students play tons of different hands on activities and centers together. Students work with one buddy and play collaborative games to build on the skills that we are working on in class. Usually we do top it games, bump games, or other collaborative and “competitive” games that engage students with our focus skill or unit.


U – Using Manipulatives – I think it is so important for students to see how to solve problems or work through different math concepts in as many ways as possible. Therefore, I try to incorporate as many different math tools as I can. I love to find any centers that I can that engage my students in using math manipulatives and tools to solve problems. Students love using geoboards, base ten materials, tangrams, bears, snap cubes and many other manipulatives to show their work on problems and they should be given the opportunity to do so often!

U – Using Technology – Sometimes using manipulatives is not an option, and sometimes we have great technology right at our fingertips! Whether you have a small group set of iPads or Chromebooks, I have two great websites for you to check out! Prodigy and Khan Academy are both totally free and allow you to assign work to students. They are both very interactive, catered to your students level and students love it!


I – Independent Work – During this time, my students work in their math journals to show solutions in multiple ways and to write about what they are working on. Math writing not only helps students retain what they are learning, but also allows students to articulate to others how to solve problems, which boosts their own math comprehension. Math writing is so important and is a major push with the common core! Another option here is to have students continue working on the consumable before or after coming to your teacher table. This is dependent on how long the consumable will take them to complete.

L – Learning About Numbers – This is where I will have my students work on different task cards based on our target skill or review skills. I encourage students to pick an area of need and to focus their energy and efforts on that skill or task card set. My students love that they have choice here and love doing task cards. I put their recording sheet in a sleeve protector so that they can use it over and over again.

D – Doing Math – This is where my students can either play productive math games that I have found on the computers, or where students can play math games individually. These differ from buddy games because they are matching type centers that students can work through alone.


The Teacher Table – Collaborative Work Time – 10-15 Minute Rotation – We talk a lot at the beginning of the year about how they are responsible for not just writing down the correct answers, but showing their work and being able to understand how to get to the solution. This is when students work on whatever skill that we did that day on a worksheet or consumable. There are usually about 10 problems, but I never focus on them finishing, but rather on the process. This is a time for me to spot check to see who is getting it and who is not. Since we spend so much time collaborating during my minilesson, this is simply a time for us to see how we did and I quickly go over answers as they solve problems. If students are struggling with finding correct answers, then it is a great time for me to reteach them how to solve the problem correctly. At my school, the bulk of our math consumables are from my Second Grade Math Unit, which can be found on my teachers pay teachers page here.

I only change my math centers when we change units. This makes setup and cleanup very easy. I give each student a recording sheet in a sleeve protector at the beginning of the year, so that copies are minimal, but if I need the accountability piece it is there. Most of the time, I do not need to check the sheets or have my students fill out the sheets because they are so engaged with what they are doing that I know they are focused and working hard. I am never focused on my students “finishing” any center, as long as they are engaged and working the entire time.

Do you teach second grade? Here are some great resources for math workshop!


Emily - The Mountain Teacher

Share your thoughts...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *