How to Plan & Organize Differentiated Math Groups

Math Workshop

The school year is halfway through.  If you’re like me, you are thankful for this winter break and are enjoying time with family.  You are also using your break to review what is working in your classroom and what needs to be changed.

Today I will share with you how you can set up and organize a math workshop model that will help you reach every student!  I hope you will take this guide, modify as needed, and use it in your classroom to help you and your students have a successful year!

In this guide I will cover these topics:

  • How to organize your students into small groups
  • How to find practical and concise material to differentiate your instruction
  • How to set up math stations that are painless to manage

The goal of this math workshop model is to set up a system that gives students responsibility. They will know where to go and what to do.  They will know what is expected of them and stay on task.  This means you can use every minute to focus your attention on a small group of students.


Here is the most important part – organizing your students into groups.  It is difficult to do this at the beginning of the year, but by now you know your students better than anyone.  Yes, you can look at the data collected by those online assessments, but lets face it – those assessments are sometimes way off.  Use whatever data you have as a start, but use your professional judgment to make the final call.

Sticky notes – a teacher’s best friend 😉

Write each student name on a sticky note/index card/ect.  This will make moving students around a simple task.  I had some extra TABS that I used.  Now let’s get started.  I typed up a nice little page for you to use as you are brainstorming groups (click to print).  It will help you think of the following…

  • Who are my struggling students that need remediation?
  • Who is right on target (grade level)?
  • Who has mastered the skills & needs enrichment?
  • Which students can NOT be in the same group?
  • Which students have STRONG teamwork skills?

Now’s the fun part – start putting the sticky notes in those groups.  Notice how there are TWO groups for struggling students.  You will meet with these students twice a week in small groups.  Below is an example of what your small group planning sheet may look like.

math workshop - small groups - planning sheet

Now that you have your students in groups, it’s time to write this down on the ‘official’ math group page (click to print). Keep in mind when you want to meet with your students.  Use the following as a guide:

math small groups

Now you should have a pretty list that looks something like this.  Be sure to print out extra sheets and keep them in the sheet protector, so you can make changes to the groups as needed.

math workshop - small groups


After you form your groups you need to decide what you’re going to teach and how you’re going to organize it.   Finding quality material for each group can easily turn into a time consuming task.  After 5 years of teaching 3rd grade, I have come up with a math curriculum series that will save you time and make planning small groups a breeze.  This will ensure that you use each minute effectively.

How do I decide what to teach?

You could continue to focus on skills you taught during your whole-group instruction.  You could also decide to focus on the concepts that students struggled on during the first part of the school year.

Let’s look at the following..

  • Part 1: How to keep organized lesson plans
  • Part 2: How to keep track of each student’s level of mastery
Math Binder – Part 1

I’ve typed up a one page small group – lesson plan template on excel.  This is so convenient, because you can plan your entire week on one page and have a clear view of what you are going to teach.  This lesson plan template is pretty neat because I’ve included drop-down menus to make lesson planning simple.

The editable lesson plan templates are available for grades 1-5 and you can choose the following from the drop down menus:

  • The domain you are focusing on
  • The standard being taught/reviewed
  • The problem solving strategy you are working on
  • *Some of the templates include standards from the previous and next grade, so you can keep track of remediation & enrichment.

Click on the pictures to download a blank PDF version of the lesson plan template.Math Workshop Lesson Plan Templates

Math Binder – Part 2

There is also a sheet that you can use for each student.  Yes, it seems like a lot of work, but if you organize the sheets per group it won’t take more than a few of minutes to check the standards for each student.

To make this section you will need 4 dividers with tabs.  Label them Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and Group 4 (see pictures below).  You will need to print a level of mastery sheet for each student.

When organizing the level of mastery sheets, group them together according to what math small group they are in.  So, if students #2, 5, 7, 8, and 12 are in group 2, I would put those sheets behind the Group 2 tab in the binder.

 math workshop - level of mastery student sheets

Click the images below to download a PDF version of the common core math checklists.

math level of mastery math level of mastery2 math level of mastery3 math level of mastery4 math level of mastery5


Purchase the Math Tri-Folds and make your small group lesson planning a breeze.

 math tri-folds 1st grade tri-folds2 tri-folds3 tri-folds4 tri-folds5


I have always displayed the math rotations on pocket charts, but I’ve decided to do something different.  I set up the math rotations display on an easel.  The rotation cards are printed on regular sheets of paper and are inside sheet protectors.  This allows me to write down what is expected at each station.  It also makes changing the dates simple! (Download the rotation cards here.

math workshop - math rotations - use sheet protectors!

Students also have a copy of where they go inside their math workshop folder. I also have master in my math binder. (Download the student folder sheets here.)

math workshop - student folders

What do students do during each rotation?

When finding material for math stations I ask myself the following:

  • Are they aligned to the standards? There are a lot of cute games out there, but we don’t have time for busy work in my class.
  • Are they simple to assemble/maintain? I like math stations that I can print/laminate and can store for years to come.
  • Are they interesting/fun?  Everyone needs a break from boring paperwork, so I want students to learn and have fun during this time.

Now let’s look at each math station.

Math Rotation #1 – Teacher

This is when students come to the teacher and have a small group math lesson that is focused on remediation or enrichment.  We may complete a math tri-fold during this time or review something the students struggled with during whole-group instruction.

Math Rotation #2 – Computer

My school bought a subscription to  Students complete standards that I’ve assigned them (on rotations display).  You can also assign students math activities using

Math Rotation #3 – Independent

This rotation is where I place math board games, task cards, sorts, or interactive notebook activities.  I write down what students are to do on the rotations display.  Math games are stored inside plastic drawers (extra wide).  I place the games that students are going to work on in the colorful drawers.  Students take the game with them to their math spot. I will post about how I organize math games in a future post.

  • Math Board Games & Task Cards – I LOVE this packet of math board games and task cards.  They are grouped by domain, so it makes finding the right math center an easy task.  There are matching games, board games, and task cards for students to complete. (Click to view 3rd gradeExpect a packet for grades 4 & 5 in the near future.
  • Math Sorts  – This is my newest product for 3rd grade.  You will find math sorts that cover ALL 3rd grade math standards.  You can learn more about math sorts here. (Click to view 3rd gradeExpect a packet for grades 4 & 5 in the near future.
  • Interactive Math Vocabulary – Students love interactive notebooks, and this product focuses on vocabulary.  (Click to view 3rd grade)  I will be working on grade 2, 4, and 5 soon.
Math Rotation #4 – iPad

Students can use this time to practice their math facts.  Below is a list of free apps.

 Apps for Math Workshop Marble Math Lite (free) – This is a pretty fun game.  It involves puzzles and multiplication practice.
 Apps for Math Workshop Sushi Monster (free) – Review multiplication facts.
 Apps for Math Workshop Mayan Multiplication (free) – The free version has 2 out of the 5 games unlocked.  You can unlock all of the games for (2.99).
 Apps for Math Workshop is an awesome site! The games are SO much fun and aligned to the standards. No app needed, simply go to!

Another student favorite is the use of QR codes.  Students complete task cards, record, and check using the QR codes.  You can use the following sheet to plan your rotations for the entire week!

math workshop rotations - weekly lesson plan template

math rotations planning sheet

Let’s Review!

In order to successfully implement  this math workshop model, you will need to…

  • Organize you students into 4 groups.
  • Use standard specific material during small group meetings
  • Set up a math rotations display so student know where to go
  • Set up student math folders where they keep their math workshop material
  • Set up math stations that are easy to manage
  • Review expectations, practice, & review some more!

Are you ready to start planning your math groups?

how to organize differentiated math groups - free lesson plan templates and check lists

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  • Reply
    January 2, 2016 at 2:57 am

    This was very informative and gave me very helpful tips to get small groups going. Thank you for sharing your organization tips and ideas!

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      January 2, 2016 at 2:58 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 I’m so happy you found some ideas you can use in your classroom!

    • Reply
      Kattia Chaves Herrera
      March 29, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Thank you so much for sharing these awesome ideas and documents. You are very kind. I will make sure we implement them for our ESOL math groups.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you so much! This is very helpful. This is the closest I have come to being able to organize centers in my class. I was trying to do six groups but I will narrow it down to four groups. Thank you again!

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      January 3, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      I am SO happy to help 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    all of this is wonderful and Ive started implementing today. How can I download the math workshop lesson plan template that includes the dropdown box menus? That would be so helpful.

    Thank you

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      January 5, 2016 at 12:54 am

      Please go here 🙂 here

  • Reply
    Kimberly Baumgarten
    February 14, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    What is the approximate date that you will have the 1sr grade math tri-folds completed?

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      February 15, 2016 at 10:46 am

      I am working on them, i’m going to try and contact you on the email you left. I taught 1st grade 5 years ago, but want to get an opinion of a current 1st grade teacher.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Great article with lots of food for thought!

  • Reply
    February 15, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for all the free downloads. This will help me to get super organized.

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      February 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

      I am happy to help 🙂 Once you get a schedule going, math workshop doesn’t seem an impossible task. Good luck! I’d love to know how it goes 🙂

  • Reply
    Nelmi Santiago
    February 17, 2016 at 9:49 am

    This is wonderfull!! I don’t have ipads or computers or laptops, but I think I could do it with manipulatives only. What domyou think?

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      February 17, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Oh course! You could do a manipulative station. There are TONS of great activities made on TPT that will save you time 🙂

  • Reply
    February 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    You are absolutely amazing!!!!

  • Reply
    February 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    You are absolutely amazing!!!! I love your work and reading your blogs!

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      February 28, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂 I am SO happy you found this helpful 😀

  • Reply
    March 6, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    What a wonderful resource! Will you be uploading materials for Kindergarten?

    • Reply
      June 5, 2016 at 5:39 am

      I would also love materials for kindergarten.

  • Reply
    Kris Mertens
    March 13, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Just found your site. I am looking at several things as I start looking at changes for next year. Just a few questions if you have a moment. What do you do with the tri-folds after completing? Is that something I can have them glue into interactive notebook ?

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      March 13, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      Hey! Usually tri-folds 1 and 2 are completed during small group instruction. They then whole punch them and put them in a binder (binders are kept in their cubbies). It’s great because students have a collection divided by tabs for each strand. The 3rd tri-fold is graded and sent home in their Thursday folder 🙂

      You could glue them in a notebook, but you would have to glue the side with the name of the tri-fold. If you have anymore questions, feel free to send me an email @

  • Reply
    April 23, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    This is amazing, but again I love everything you do! Similar to your blog post on reading workshop…what does your math workshop look like? How long do you meet with each group? I try to meet with everyone every day and it can be very overwhelming. If I could make this work and convince my principal…I think I would feel way less overwhelmed.

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      April 23, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Hey, thanks! I’ve switched it so many times…even during each year it changes. I start with just meeting with one group per day when I start introducing centers. We then gradually increase the time of math workshop and the number of groups I see. Sometimes I meet with one group in the morning and then 2 groups in the afternoon. Sometimes I meet with two groups on one day and then the other two the next day. It really has to do with your schedule. I don’t see why your principal would say no. Teaching in small group really is the way to go. You can help students at their level and really help them as soon as they need it. I’ve found that when you teach whole group those that don’t understand get very behind… and those who get it, get so bored. Good luck, let me know if you want me to help you brainstorm a schedule. You can email me at 🙂


  • Reply
    Michelle Carr
    May 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you so much! I’m a teacher in Australia so Common Core isn’t applicable to us here but the concepts and ideas are! I run my maths group rotations similar to the way you do so these resources are fabulous! Thank you so much…Michelle from Sydney Aust

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I love the idea of math stations. I am a middle school math intervention teacher and wanted to do stations but was they never got past the planning stage. Do you have any material for 6-8th grade?

  • Reply
    May 30, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    The information, especially the templates, are so helpful! Thank you for your incredible post!

  • Reply
    June 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Any chance you plan to create this for kindergarten? I am in love with this set up!

  • Reply
    Jamie Kitlen
    June 15, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    This is awesome! I’m ready to get back to school to try this. I was wondering how long they stay at their station?

  • Reply
    D Kimmel
    June 21, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    I was so happy to find this pin. You’ve outlined exactly what I’ve been hoping to incorporate next year. I will be purchasing your TpT products very soon. Thank you for sharing your hard work.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2016 at 12:28 am

    This is amazing!!! I was the ELA fourth grade teacher last year and will be the Math/Science fourth grade teacher for the upcoming school year. I was not happy about this and not sure where to begin and what to do. I have been searching for ideas and stations and your information came up. I was super excited to see everything that you have done and willingly shared. I would like to say a great BIG THANK YOU for doing this. I was not comfortable with what to do and you have laid it all out for me. You are truly amazing! I saw in your post that you mentioned that you had fourth grade centers coming soon. Are they available now? How long do students stay in their centers?

  • Reply
    June 29, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I have always struggled with small groups in math. We do Engage New York for whole group instruction. If you have time, how do you implement this while doing while group instruction? Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Can you clarify how his Day A to Day C works both within a typical day and a 5 day week. Are you doing any whole group math instruction on new standards or are all new concepts taught in this format? I can’t figure out if there’s some whole group lesson time daily or if perhaps that’s done 1-2 days a week and then the workstations days A to C are the other 3 days of a typical 5 day week. Are the workstations your whole math teaching block or just a par of it?

    Also, your answer on 4/23 about how you teach the workstations confuses me as it mentions seeing 1 group in the am and 2 groups in the PM which equals 3 groups a day and it looks like the workshop is set up for 2 groups a day??

    Can you explain more about the QR codes? You said”Another student favorite is the use of QR codes. Students complete task cards, record, and check using the QR codes. You can use the following sheet to plan your rotations for the entire week!” Thank you . A friend referred me to your site.

  • Reply
    Lauren Barnes
    July 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    I think you are great and I love your ideas! I cannot wait to buy the 4th grade center bundle and interactive vocabulary set! When will you be selling those?

  • Reply
    July 11, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Thank you! I am starting a position teaching division 2 opportunity ( basically grade 4,5,6 at grade 1,2,3, or more levels). I have been fretting about how I can get organized, especially as I can not do to much planning until I meet the kids and find out where they are at. I am just starting to read your website but think you will be a tremendous help. Thanks again.

  • Reply
    Tamala Wells
    July 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Is it possible to create this for 6th grade?

  • Reply
    Ayanna Zimmermon
    July 22, 2016 at 7:07 pm


  • Reply
    Lisa Stubblebine
    July 22, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Love everything I just read here. Question for you. Do you know where I can get this in sixth grade checklist and other forms? Thanks.

  • Reply
    Tina Dittrich
    July 25, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I am going to begin a Blended Learning Rotation Model within my 5th grade classroom this year. Your organization is OUTSTANDING and I will be using it to help me with the process of bringing in workshops.

  • Reply
    Bethaney Jones
    August 4, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a first-year 3rd grade math and science teacher. This post and information along with the handouts has helped me get my small group planning organized.

  • Reply
    Stephanie Moberly
    August 8, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I love the drop down options! Is there anyway you have one for 6th grade?!?

  • Reply
    Kari Keck
    August 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

    I am getting ready to begin implementing Guided Math and your forms are really helping me with planning. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Goals for the First 5 Days of Math Workshop - Math Tech Connections
    August 12, 2016 at 2:58 am

    […] been thinking about my math block A LOT.  I am SO thankful that I wrote this detailed blog post of how I ran my math work block.  I just reread it and printed the sheets to get myself started […]

  • Reply
    August 20, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    How do you use the trifolds? What does whole group consist of? How long is your whole group? Do you use a specific curriculum, and do students complete independent work in a book? Thanks! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 24, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Are Day A,B, and C all separate days? If yes, do you take 3 days to teach one standard? I love this idea and would like to try it, just trying to wrap my head around only 2 stations a day. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Janet Garrett
    September 11, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    This post was so helpful , since I’m teaching Math for the first time in many years. Plus, I’m trying to set up rotations in my own room. However, even though I signed up for your blog quite some time ago, it wouldn’t allow me to download your templates or your Math Intervention Guide. I even tried signing up again, but it didn’t make a difference. Suggestions? Thank you so much!!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    I just purchased your 3rd grade tri-fold product and it is great however on one of your previews it shows the learning goals on the product but when downloaded the learning goals are not on there. Was this a mistake? I hope I was not seeing things. lol 🙂

    • Reply
      Math Tech Connections
      October 28, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      Please re-download them. They should be there – email me if they are not 🙂

  • Reply
    kelly schumeyer
    October 29, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Hello! I love your system here! I’m curious if you do whole group and if so how long? How do you use the trifolds? Also in a 5 day week can you explain a bit more how that works? Is it Monday- A, Tuesday B, Wednesday- C, Thursday (Start over on day A) etc? Please get back to me as soon as possible. Thank you!! 🙂

  • Reply
    November 8, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Hello! Thank you so much for all your helpful information! It’s my first year teaching and I’m beyond overwhelmed. After reading your post I feel more confident in beginning the implementation of DI. Do you happen to have resources for 1st grade?

  • Reply
    February 1, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    You have taken tons of stress off of me. I have been struggling with doing math centers and now it is crunch time. Thank you so much this is going to work for me.

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