Why The Math D5 Fits

Lots of teacher types seem interested in applying the Daily Five principles to mathematics. What does that mean? For me, it means that teachers are struggling to find ways to deliver comprehensive instruction to our students and to differentiate so that rigor is applied to all students no matter what their level of accomplishment.

The Math Daily Five as developed by Gail and Joan consists of four categories really – Math by Myself, Math Writing, Partner Work (Math with Someone), and Math with Technology.  I like the categories, really I do, but I also know I need to be accountable to expectations for teaching math that are required in my school district.

My current thinking – notice I am saying current because I expect this will morph as we figure out more of what the kids need in transitioning to Common Core – is that I need five, not four major categories. The categories I currently use in my classroom are: Math Exploration, Fact Practice, Problem Solving, Technology, and Math Games.  Here is why:

  • Our district has adopted a Launch-Explore-Summary model for delivery of instruction.  The “explore” activity on the Math D5 board is connected to the lesson that has been launched during math.
  • We also use Investigations in Number, Data and Space as our basal mathematics resource.  This structure supports the materials we have the most consistent access to.
  • Fact practice is necessary as students are often deficient in knowing their facts – I still have students who try to count on their fingers to add and subtract and they need to master those pronto. Common Core requires students in Grade 3 to master multiplication and division to the 10s family. The fact practice games and flash cards (we use the triangular ones) fit well in here.
  • Our Unified School Improvement Plan specifies that students get direct instruction in problem solving – not to mention the Massachusetts Common Core docs also call out problem solving structures. I give students at least one problem to solve each week in their Problem Solvers’ notebook to track their progress.
  • The games I choose for the Math Game choice function as review of prior skills and often as intervention practice for struggling students. Many of these activities are based on Number Sense and Operations/Algebra as that is where my students are weakest.

With all the nuts and bolts of why I use the Daily Five out there, one of the most beneficial aspects is actually more general.  The Sisters advocate for teaching students to be independent – accountable for their own learning actions and trusted to stay on task without constant teacher intervention.  For me, this is the ultimate reason for teaching students the Daily Five structure. I need to pinpoint which students are struggling and provide targeted help (an initiative also mandated by our District).  If I am constantly redirecting students I simply can not do that. I need to know that the students who are not directly interacting with me at any particular point in time are engaged in meaningful mathematics activity for the entire 90 minute mathematics period.

Another reason why I’ve embraced the Daily Five structure for mathematics is that it allows for segmenting the time frame.  Does anyone really have those long imaginary blocks of time with class interruptions at the end of the day? I don’t think so. My schedule is much more coherent this year than it has been for the last 3 years; however, I still need to interrupt my mathematics block for lunch and recess. So the general structure of the block goes like this:

10 – 15 minute Launch with whole group

20 – 30 minutes (students start with Explore and move to a choice)

10 minute mid-point check in (either we solve/discuss the daily activity or we check in with something I’ve notice as I observe students working).

15 minutes additional independent choice time (at this point I pull one or two students who are struggling with the daily concept for some clarification OR if everyone “gets it” (right), I work with a group of students to extend thinking.


20 minutes additional independent activity (intervene with students who struggle with number sense)

10 minute Summary of what we’ve done or learned for the day.

So far, this structure is working for me and my students. Perfect? I don’t think so, but the more I learn about what my students need and the more read and study about the thinking behind the Daily Five, the more I think I am on the right track for helping my students.


2 thoughts on “Why The Math D5 Fits

  1. “I need to know that the students who are not directly interacting with me at any particular point in time are engaged in meaningful mathematics activity for the entire 90 minute mathematics period.”

    Yes!! I have worked since day#1 back in September to teach the kiddos how to solve their own problems: “You don’t need to interrupt me to ask to get a tissue, or go to the bathroom, or ask me what to do with your broken pencil. You can solve those problems on your own.” An ongoing lesson! lol! 🙂

    What math games do you use in Daily 5 math? I’d like to include some in our math centers. I’m thinking of games like Uno? What are your suggestions?

    1. Oh boy, steps to independence…. and on-going challenge for me! In the rush to get everything smushed into a day full of interruptions, it would be much easier to just answer the questions! But I agree — these kids need to KNOW they can be independent of me. I think I must tell them at least once a day, “Mrs. Bisson is NOT going to follow you to high school. YOU need to know what to do!”

      As far as math activities, I always try to build in the landmark games from Investigation in Number (our #1 math resource for K-4). A lot of those games look like Marilyn Burns’ Math Solutions; I started to align these to the MA/Common Core Framework last year when I was in Third Grade and started doing that in Fourth this year. My thinking was/is that as we work on each module, there will be standards that need a bit more practice before they make sense to the kids. If the kids can keep working on math on their own – and working on the language of math (ELLs!), then I can give more targeted intervention to struggling math students.

      What have you found? So many great resources out there!

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