Category Archives: Math Workshop

Math Workshop!

This year I embarked on Math Workshop and I will never look back.  I have always wanted to implement the workshop model to my math instruction but let too many things stand in my way.  For me, literacy workshop came naturally so it was hard for me to wrap my mind around how to take what I was already doing and mesh it with a guided math format.  I didn’t even know where to start other than I knew students needed more opportunities to practice and explore math.  The best way for students to get better at anything is to practice so why not be practicing with math?

My sister was the inspiration I needed to take a risk and get started!  She teaches 4th grade and has been using a math workshop model for over a year.  She shared with me how she uses MATH to set up workstations.  My sister found the templates here:

What I loved about these work stations was that there was more than one choice for each letter and the acronym was short and sweet.  This would allow for more focused practice.  I chose the following work stations from her list:

M: Math Facts
A: At your Seat (mainly the group I focus on)
T: Technology (Current favorite resources: FrontRow & HyperDocs)
H: Hands on

So here is how the rotation schedule works over the course of a 5 day week:
Monday: Students complete first 2 rotations
Tuesday: Students complete last 2 rotations
Wednesday: Students start over so same rotations as Monday
Thursday: Students complete last 2 rotations just like they did on Tuesday
Friday: GAME DAY! Students join if or as soon as all of their work is complete

I love that after 2 days students have already completed 4 rotations.  Then they have 2 more days which gives them another opportunity to go through again.  Sometimes I will change the activities or part of an activity but this depends on the concept being taught and what the students need.  In the link I provided above, it showed how the teacher set up her board and here is a picture of mine:


Now it was time to discuss with my sister what a typical math lesson would look like.   Here is a 65 minute math block:

  1. Counting Circle (2-4 minutes): I got this idea from the book Number Sense Routines by: Jessica F. Shumway. (HIGHLY recommend) We sit in a circle and count. I know that sounds so very simple but the amount of number sense it has given my students has been a game changer.  We have counted by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 1’s from any given number and go forwards and backwards.  We make sure to make eye contact with the counter and they are learning how to ask for coaching.  This allows the circle to be completely student run.  As the year goes on we try to predict what number we will land on.
  2. Number Talk (5-8 minutes): I always have one number projected on my SMART board or on a Padlet (see link below). Students then discuss, with their learning partner, as many ways as they can think of that would represent that number. Depending on the concept we are working on I may or may not suggest they come up with one subtraction equation or think of expanded form.  I have loved seeing their mental math skills and their ability to find patterns grow. (These are links to school wide Padlets)
  3. Mini Lesson (15-20 min MAX): This is where I teach the lesson and or concept for the day. My district currently uses Math in Focus as our curriculum. I took the chapters and broke them down by concepts.  We then spend a week on one concept.  At first I thought this might put me behind the scope and sequence but so far we are right on track. I try to only do 2-3 problems that will model the strategy or concept I am teaching.  The beginning of the week is more I do, then we do, then you do.  I still feel that gradual release of responsibility is vital in their mathematical success.  Instead of spreading that out day by day.  I get to really focus on what is most important and help them more toward mastering concepts instead of memorizing them.
  4. MATH Rotations (1st Rotation: 14 minutes): Students travel to their first workstation. I set a timer for 14 minutes to allow 1 minute of clean up. Most of these work stations are meant for students to work independently. This gives me the flexibility to either stay with a group, float, or split my time depending on what the student’s needs.
  5. MATH Rotations (2nd Rotation: 14 minutes): Same as above. I do have the board where students can double check to make sure they are going to the right place and or what their activity is. I also post directions on our learning management system.  Students can access their Chromebook to double check if they needs.
  6. Reflection (5 minutes): I have been using Emoji Google slides for students to reflect. They choose the emoji that best describes how they felt at the end of the lesson and then they reflect on why they chose that emoji. This document can then be shared back with me via their Google Drive or they can upload to a learning management system.  This was often the piece I left out of my previous math instruction and I feel I can no longer go without.  I love giving the students an opportunity to reflect on their own learning and then offer feedback for me.  Digitally works best for me but you could also have a “math huddle” at the end to discuss glows and grows of the lesson.  The biggest hurdle for 2nd graders is specifically articulating why they feel that way.  The first time we did this I received a lot of this was fun, I like math, I finished my work.  This time we have started to trying to explain why or what made us feel that way.  They are even becoming more aware which I think only has helped them learn even more.

I LOVE WORKSHOP! Why in the world did I wait to long?  Within 2 days, I already felt like I was reaching more students, meeting more specific needs, challenging my gifted learners, assisting my lower students, and also finding more opportunities for all students to shine and build confidence!  I also loved that every single student is practicing math.  For 65 minutes my students are engaging in math activities that challenge, encourage, and strengthen their mathematical knowledge.  I also love that instead of trying to cram in so many lessons, I’m focusing on concepts.  I feel this helps guide students to a mastery level vs a memorizing level.

Now I have seen other workshop models out there and I think teachers must pick the one that works best for them.  I love the MATH model because it is 4 days of workshop and 1 day of gaming fun.  Students are motivated to work hard and focus so they have the opportunity to participate in our game.  I also love the MATH model because it is very manageable, at least for me.  I can implement and not give up halfway through because it is becoming too stressful.  I actually feel like my workload went down.  I honestly do not understand how I taught math before and why was I so nervous about jumping in.

My advice to anyone thinking about giving the workshop model a try: DO IT RIGHT NOW!  JUMP IN! Take a risk and I promise it will pay off.  It is OK if it is the middle of the year.  Introduce it slowly or maybe a workstation at a time. You will not be sorry and will see your student’s mathematical abilities soar!  I highly recommend reading these resources: Guided Math by Laney Sammons and Number Sense Routines by: Jessica F. Shumway.  Please also feel free to follow my class on Twitter @PitzersLearners #2Pmath to check in on our math adventures.

I would love to hear from other teachers who either have tried or are currently trying MATH workshop.  What is working and or not working?  What advice do you have?

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Posted by on November 16, 2016 in Math Workshop