Growing up, fractions were always the bane of my existence. Therefore, I totally understand my upper elementary students’ moans and groans about adding and subtracting fractions. While I may not be able to convince them that fractions are easy, guided math helps them make sense of the tricky topic.

Guided math is a style of teaching where students’ level of difficulty and support shifts through the lesson. Typically, as students move through the content and the lesson, the difficulty will increase and the support will decrease. However, student’s aren’t left there struggling. Differentiated small groups are used to support students, so that they are ready for more challenging content.

Here is how I use guided math to teach adding and subtracting fractions:

Whole Group Lesson

Guided math always starts with a mini-lesson. It’s during this portion that students are introduced to the skill of the day and complete practice problems together. Through modeling and talking through problems, students can begin to grasp the basic concept.

Small Group Activities

Next comes the small group. This is the meat and potatoes of your adding and subtracting fractions lesson. It’s through small groups that you can zone into students’ needs, whether students are on-level, remedial, or above level.

While you work with some students in a small group, the rest of the class is engaged in centers related to the lesson. This keeps them practicing the skill of the day, while also giving you time to assist specific students.

Classwork, Homework, and Exit Tickets

The last element of guided math is independent practice. Sometimes we want to skip right over the guided practice and jump straight to independent practice. However, solo work functions at its best when students can show what they are truly capable of (and the means guidance needs to take place first).

Independent practice may look like classwork, homework, or exit tickets. No matter what form it’s in, be sure to look over the work and gather data. How are you students doing? Are they ready to move forward? Who needs to meet with me in a small group the next day?

If this adding and subtracting guided math unit sounds like something that would benefit your students, take a look at my ready-to-go guided math lessons here. It includes eight adding and subtracting fractions lessons to help your students master the skill. Each lesson includes a lesson plan, small group work, independent work, homework, and an exit ticket. You can get those guided math lessons here.

Math Centers

While you work in small groups, your students will work in centers! Here are some adding and subtracting fractions centers to help you out:

Notebook Sorts –  Notebook sorts are my favorite way to have students review material, solve problems, and create reference sheets. Students cut and paste answers to equations onto a sorting sheet. I have a notebook sort for adding with like denominators and subtracting with like denominators

Digital Practice – Digital centers are *chefs kiss* They help easily gather data, and I like that they are more interactive than a worksheet. I have a Google Slide Adding and Subtracting Fractions activity that reviews thirteen skills with various problem types. I also created self-checking Google Forms for adding fractions and subtracting fractions, each with three quizzes. 
Math Games – Did you say game?! Math games are the best centers because you can rest assured your students are engaged (and won’t interrupt your small group). These math games review material from throughout the year, including fractions. Also, they are easy to prep (no cutting and pasting). There is a Christmas game, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Winter themed.

Check out this blog post here that will show you some of my tips and tricks that I use in my classroom when I am teaching adding and subtracting fractions.

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