Our Upper Elementary Math Schedule

Today, let's talk about all things MATH!  Specifically speaking, math scheduling in our fifth grade classroom.

I'll start out with honesty: As a student in school, I struggled terribly with math.  I had to WORK for a B and nothing came "easy" in the area of mathematics.  It honestly took until I got to college and met my husband that things turned around.  He was unbelievably patient and would explain things to me in no less than one hundred ways, making sure I actually got it.

I did get it and I strive to be that for my students today.

I also sometimes hesitate to share about our math block because I know I'm extremely fortunate to have a LONG block (more on that in a second) but others might not.  I am self contained with very few pull outs or changes to our daily schedule.  Because of that, we are immersed in math, on average, for about 90 minutes each day.

As with all things, some might be a little more and some might be a little bit less, depending on the content and the need to review or practice.

So, I'll walk you through a typical math block but also keep in mind that I approach math with this mindset: 

Math happens all day long, not just in a set block of time.

For example, our class cash system is constant integration of real life mathematical concepts.

For a detailed look at my schedule, you can grab THIS freebie.

When students come in after morning recess, that signals the beginning of our math block.

You can grab this in HERE or HERE.

As soon as they walk in, they practice fluency.  I stand at the door as they enter and tell them what they're doing.  This can either be 60 Second Sweep (photographed above; you can check out YouTube for some examples to show your students), the Flash to Pass app, or even paper flashcards (we have a bin of them).

We keep all materials in their math notebooks, which you can grab HERE.

While they are doing this, I'm walking around and just checking off homework.  I give them credit for completing and returning, not for accuracy.  More on that below!

They have blank, laminated multiplication tables they fill in as fluency practice.  Magic Erasers wipe it clean!
If it's a day when a student thinks he/she can complete the 60 Second Sweep, we will have them attempt it.  If they are able to complete it, they get $100 in class cash.  If they'd prefer to not do it in front of others, they can see me during small group math and do it then.  However, we make a pretty big deal even for trying so most like to attempt whole group!

Number Sense and Warm Up
This is part of our math wall. It's floor to ceiling and a great place to display anchor charts we make.
The next ten minutes are spent exploring number sense and warming up.

We either do Hundreds Boards, play Guess My Number, or do warm up problems.

I just swap out problems on these small whiteboards, which covers content we've learned about and content that is still new to us.
THESE math wall pieces help a ton, too!
I also use resources from Teachers Pay Teachers to supplement in this area.

I've recently changed out the butcher paper but you can get an idea of our ever-changing math wall.
Each day, we either add new words to our notebooks OR we review words we've learned.  These can be relevant to the current unit or they can be review.  About once a week, we also have a vocabulary quiz, which takes place during this time.

It's very important that they understand mathematical language because it transfers right into state testing.

Homework Review
Students correct their own math homework.  I don't know how much support a child has available at home so I don't like it to be a punitive activity.
I am NOT a big proponent of homework but I do find the responsibility piece important.  I think it's valuable for a student to take ownership of completing a task and returning it the next day.

I assign anywhere from 5-10 problems of math review each evening. 

When we go over it, I always ask for any questions or if anyone was stumped by one or more problems.  If you build that growth mindset into the culture of your class, they will ask questions.

All our homework comes from our adopted curriculum (which, for us, is Expressions).

Lesson, Teaching Point, or CGI Word Problem
These whiteboard paddles from the Dollar Tree are great for math work.  They show their work on one side and write the solution on the back, easily showing holding up and showing me where they're at.
Again, for this, we go with the scope and sequence provided by our district.  If you're curious to see what that looks like for us in fifth grade, you can grab THIS freebie.

As a team, we write CGI (cognitively guided instruction; Google it because it's really an entire approach to math) problems weekly.  These are differentiated and people have been on me for years to get them posted but I have yet to do so.

If and when I do, I'll link here.  Deal? :)

We use our textbooks and teach lessons, using gradual release until I have them working independently.  Once they are, I start pulling groups.

I can seat about five kids comfortably around this table (it's from Ikea and you buy all the pieces separately in the office section).  If I have a larger group (which I don't find great for small group work but it sometimes is unavoidable), we will sit on the rug.

If I'm lucky, I'll have an intervention teacher available during this block and she also pulls groups.  

The groups are fluid, meaning they change daily.  I also tell students that they can ALWAYS join a group, even if I don't call them down.  A LOT of them choose to do this because they just need to hear it one more time or need a little boost of support.

At the end of this block, we go over any answers and discuss what we did as mathematicians.

If students finish their work early, they choose a math activity.  I personally love task cards and have them set up so they can work alone with a box or with a partner.  You can grab the boxes HERE.  I have several task card options HERE.

Remember, these structures and expectations take a LOT of practice.  It takes us WEEKS until we are in a good groove and even then, we are constantly reviewing noise and voice levels, appropriate behavior, and what to do with work that is completed.


I do exit tickets 99% of the time for this because I've found it to be the most efficient and effective.  I literally just project a problem or question (or write it under the document camera) and have students solve.

They drop it in the basket that most closely meets their level.  You can grab all the labels and tickets HERE.

I store the baskets in the cubbies and review their work and levels either at the end of the day or the next morning (my favorite).  From here, I get an idea of which kids I want to check in with during small groups.

And here's something SO important to me:

If you come in my room during math, I so hope you hear the STUDENTS more than me. I hope you hear them sharing out and discussing and sharing.  I hope you see them leaning in to share a strategy or troubleshoot if someone is stuck.

My students have reading partners and they also have math partners.  They USE them.  Daily.

Math isn't memorizing formulas and spitting them out.  Math is playing with numbers, understanding what they are and the different things they can do.  It's not all pencil and paper.  It's rolling dice, playing dominoes, manipulating numbers and shifting decimals, and it's applying it to real life.


  1. Hi! I teach in a 4th/5th grade combo classroom. I have enjoyed reading your blog and getting some great ideas! I also do Mentor Sentences and a modified 40 book challenge. My question is how do you fit everything into one day?! I’m self contained as well and find it almost impossible to fit everything in. I’m especially curious what subjects you do everyday and which ones different days of the week- specifically Science and History. Thank you!!

  2. This was so helpful. Thank you! Now I’m curious about your math and reading partners. How does this work in your classroom?

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