How to Easily Teach Elementary Math with our Comprehensive Programs

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Teaching in the elementary grades is no easy task. You’re probably responsible for planning, teaching and assessing 10 or more subjects!

After years of ‘reinventing the wheel’, I finally decided to start saving my math lesson plans each day to be reused. I was math lead at my school, we had a new vice-principal who was a math expert and our school focus was to improve math scores.

All that led to me working on a lot of math instructional best practices and creating high-quality lessons with our division.

We now provide a comprehension math program for grades 4-8. These include high-quality, engaging lessons, formative and summative assessments, practice activities and worksheets, review games and balanced math centres. Of course, each unit can also be purchased separately.

Why am I writing this post?

This post is really designed to support those of you who own our individual math units or full-year math units bundles and are looking for ideas to implement or improve their understanding of the various pieces. There is a LOT of information in that Google Drive folder and we hear you, it can be overwhelming!

We have organized all the content to the best of our abilities but we know some of you will still find a ‘roadmap’ of sorts helpful.

If you don’t already own our full year of math, you can check it out here!

If there is a specific element of our math program that you would like more information about, feel free to use the Table of Contents to skip straight to it.

Teaching Math Strategies

Let’s start by outlining the approaches and strategies in teaching mathematics that we consider to be the most effective in teaching elementary math. You will find these math strategies throughout our math programs:

  • Problem-solving questions with real world applications
  • Collaborative activities
  • Hands on math lessons
  • Focused on student understanding not memorization
  • Teacher as facilitator
  • Differentiated strategies for math instruction
  • Use of manipulatives in math lessons
  • Make math fun!

Our Full Year Math Program

I will outline each element of our math program and some suggestions on how and when to use each. Keep in mind, that teaching should be fluid depending on your own teaching strengths, unique student needs and class schedule.

This post will focus on the Junior grade math unit bundles (4-6) as there are some small differences in the intermediate versions – although they should be close enough to still be useful!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE make sure you make a copy of any file before you share a digital version with your class! Students will not have access to our original copy which will result in frustration for all parties involved.


Math Vocabulary Package

One important math strategy is to ensure students understand the vocabulary. This is especially important for ELL learners. Each unit includes a vocabulary package with various glossary sheets and cards to be cut out and added to a Math Word Wall.

If you have enough wall space, I would encourage you to set up a dedicated Math Word Wall organized by strand. If, like most of us, you don’t, the cards can be added to your regular Word Wall. Just try to use colour to differentiate between different subject words.

I hand this out at the very beginning of the unit and go over specific words before each lesson where they will appear. Depending on your group, use the glossary sheet that works best for you.

Any ELL students should be given the page with space for translation and be allowed time to use Google Translate (or tool of their choice) to find the translation for each word into their primary language.

Expectations Page

This also is passed out on the first day of the unit and becomes a kind of cover page for all their unit work. I make sure students take it home and have parents sign it at the very least. This way I know parents are in the loop.

Students are also strongly encouraged to use it as a kind of study guide. Do they understand each of the ‘big ideas’ listed? Can they answer each sample question?

This gives parents some support when trying to help their child at home. How many times have you heard parents say they didn’t do the ‘new math’ when they were in school and they don’t know how to help their child? By using this sheet, some of this stress is relieved.

At the end of the unit, I use this page to record their final unit marks which are a combination of the final unit test, notebook pages from the unit and their class participation (including small group observations).

Concept Pages

This is another page that I hand out early on in the unit but don’t worry about right away. I like to use this as a ‘time filler’ throughout lessons.

If students are done at a centre, or have finished a practice worksheet early, they know this is something they can go to. Near the end of the unit, I will give some dedicated time for these to be completed.

Students are asked to use these pages as a place to record ‘anything and everything’ they know about the topic.

For those that struggle with more formal assessments, this is a great alternative. It is also open-ended so it can capture anything students feel to be relevant – you never what they might think of!


3-Part Math Lessons

Our lessons are designed to be the backbone of your math program. Each lesson *should* take around 60 minutes although I often find myself going over (time management has never been a strength of mine).

Each lesson includes teacher notes with tips for introducing and implementing the lesson as well as any answers. Make sure your speaker notes are turned on or print the handy PDF for a quick guide during class!

Lessons begin with a minds-on activity that is short and sweet. The goal is just to get students thinking about the big idea for the day and/or activate prior knowledge. Usually, I do a think-pair-share format for this and keep it to 5 minutes.

The Action part is a chance for students to explore the problem and develop their own understandings and strategies to try to solve the problem. It is so important to give students a chance to explore and think BEFORE simply teaching them the concepts. They will likely struggle, they may get a little frustrated (don’t let them get too frustrated), they may be confused to start. This is how they develop a deeper understanding and strategies that work for THEM. This is a collaborative task, usually in pairs but sometimes in small groups.

Consolidation (the slides called “What Have We Learned?”) are where the real ‘teaching’ now happens. Students have a chance to share the strategies they developed, discuss the challenges they faced and how they overcame them. They also get to ask any questions to further clarify their understanding.

This is where you, the teacher, might step in and actually teach a specific strategy. You should have to fix any misunderstandings. Your questions should be well-considered ahead of time but change depending on what your students need.

Don’t skimp on this area – it’s easy to cut this part short when the students are dragging their heels at discussing but this is the most important part of the lesson!

Finally, there is a chance for some formative assessment. Each lesson includes a “Show What You Know” slide and “Journal“.

The Show What You Know provides a question based on the main expectation being addressed while the journal entry varies between a chance for students to communicate their understanding of concepts or address Socio-Emotional Learning expectations.

I have students hand in their notebooks open to the page for their responses and make sure to quickly check their answers before the next math lesson.

This quick assessment informs my teaching moving forward – are they ready for the next lesson or do we need to review? – and my small groups for guided instruction during centres – who needs more support in the same areas? who needs to be challenged?

Balanced Math Centres

I run 6 centres in my classroom that cover various learning styles and areas of need. Four of these centres are unit specific and are included with each unit to complement the expectations.

You can run centres either after the lesson multiple days a week, or multiple rotations one day a week. Both versions work well, it just depends on what your schedule allows.

Centre tasks are designed to be as open-ended as possible to reduce the number of interruptions during small groups as well as to prevent the panic of having to suddenly replace centre activities. If you lose track and don’t replace them on time, not a big deal!

For the first month or so of the school year, spend a lot of time making sure students know the expectations during math stations and simply circulate around the room. Don’t begin pulling small groups until you feel confident that they can work appropriately without any support.

Math centres are my favourite part of my math block. It also tends to be the favourite part of our math block for my students too. Making math fun is a huge step towards motivation and classroom management.

As the teacher, having a class that is engaged in independent tasks means I can pull small groups which is where the best teaching happens.

My groups change depending on the needs of the students. There is a sheet included in the Balanced Math Centres document with some suggested groupings for each unit.

You can also pull a student for some one-on-one support or a short informal assessment. This is perfect for students with IEPs, those who have been absent, or students who struggle with written assessments.

During small groups, my assessment comes in the form of anecdotal notes using the included assessment recording sheet.

Tip: Have a set of individual whiteboard and dry erase markers that live at your group table to cut down on paper waste.

Practice Math Worksheets

Research into the best methods of teaching mathematics all agree that worksheets are NOT effective math teaching strategies. However, the reality is that sometimes students need more time and practice to master a skill.

We have had a few requests for more worksheets in our units and we listened! This is an ongoing update to each unit but each unit contains practice pages for the most relevant skills and we are working to include a page for every expectation.

These practise worksheets can be used in a variety of ways – and I change it up depending on my students’ needs.

  • The majority of students are having difficulty? Take a block of time to complete a worksheet or two as a whole class activity.
  • The majority of the class needs more time and practice? Make a worksheet a task at the Independent Practice math centre.
  • A handful of students need support? Work through the page with a small guided group during centres.
  • A handful of students need more time and practice? Send it home for homework.
  • It’s an important skill that is a great idea to practise and keep fresh? Use as a complete work task during math blocks.

Most units now contain a digital version of each worksheet! These are perfect for sharing with your distance learning class, for use during technology times or for those students with technology for accommodations.

Review Game or Activity

Almost every unit contains at least one review activity. These are generally great to be done as a whole class during a period before the unit assessment, but also work well as a small group activity or centre task.

Use it as a whole class activity to review the current unit and then reuse it as a math centre later in the year. Yay for multi-purposing!

Occasionally, instead of a review game, there will be a culminating task.


Culminating Task

Where appropriate, some units will have a culminating task that is more like a mini-project.

These are amazing for assessment as they give the students a chance to take their time and do their best work. A bigger project showcases learning in a far superior way to test taken on one day.

Depending on the project, allow an appropriate amount of time for students to complete the work.

Unit Assessment

Each unit includes a traditional paper and pencil test. Please, use these wisely!

I believe they have a purpose and provide useful information regarding a student’s learning. However, remember to use it as ONE piece of information, not the whole picture.

Tests are broken down into the four achievement categories labelled in the margin. Give each question a level 1-4, then average all the questions in the same category and put that score in the table at the top.

The Ontario Curriculum has a great general rubric that outlines what is expected within each category. If you are not yet comfortable with assigning a level for questions, I recommend having this rubric handy.

Most units now include a digital test version! Depending on which best suits the questions, it may be in Google Forms or Google Slides but they are ready to make a copy and share with your class.


There are a few pages included helping you navigate your way through the year of math.

  • You will find a Course of Study for the year overall. This organizes the unit into what we believe to be the best order for student understanding and success. It includes a link to the overall unit folder AND each lesson is linked. This is a great spot for quick access to a specific lesson or test, otherwise I would recommend accessing the full unit folder.
  • Each unit contains a Unit Outline page. This lists all the expectations that will be covered with a link to each lesson that focuses on that standard. It also links to the major elements of the unit. It does not include a link to every single file but it’s also good for quick access!
  • You will find a rubric for student notebooks/unit work and a guide for assessing the concept pages.
  • There is a recording sheet that includes spaces for grades in each category and space for anecdotals.

How do I find all these amazing files?

After you purchase, download the PDF. You will find a few pages of teacher notes, useful links and – most importantly – a page containing a link to the Google Drive folder. Click on the link to open the folder in your Google Drive account.

NOTE: If you have more than one account, be sure to log in with the correct account first.

The materials are organized into folders by strand. Within each strand folder, you will find Lessons, Assessments, Additional Practice Materials each again in easy-to-navigate folders.

Additionally, you can use the Course of Study or individual Unit Outlines to link directly to the specific lesson, file or folder you need!

VIDEO: Math Program Overview – File Organization

If you would like more information on our file organization system (or you are a visual learner), check out this video. It will take you through a quick tour of a sample unit from the initial TPT download file.

What questions do you still have about our Math Programs?

Let us know in the comments below!

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