I love Math Workshop, but I didn’t always. It seemed like a lot of work and wouldn’t really change how my students did math. Let me tell you, I was wrong.
When I started looking into math workshops, I started learning that there are so many ways to do math workshops, and they can change day to day based on your needs in the classroom. The key focus of this model is to get your students engaged in open-ended problem solving and student choice. My students flourished in math workshops and were able to solve a problem, but they were also able to show their understanding by explaining how they got to an answer. They were also able to have problems that were accessible to them, so they weren’t too hard or too easy, but just right.
So in this blog post, I will share three awesome things you need to know about Math Workshop to get you thinking about how to implement it in your classroom.
Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty of Math Workshop, if you are looking for a guide to set up your own, I have a guide for you sent directly to your inbox! Just a teacher helping out another teacher! Click here to make your math time more engaging and fun!
What is Math Workshop?
Math Workshop is a model that allows students to be engaged in problem-solving. This can include open-ended problem solving, small group instruction, student choice, and time to practice concepts and skills taught throughout the year. It involves five different components to your math block:
- Number Sense routine
- Whole Group lesson
- Small group instruction (or guided math)
- Math stations
- Closing or a debrief
It is crucial that, as the teacher, you are not always talking or lecturing. The students need time to explore math concepts and figure out a way to solve a problem independently. This is truly the most challenging part of the Math Workshop.
As teachers, we want to show our students the easiest way to solve a problem or how that works. They need to understand numbers and see math in their environment. Students make connections and determine problems that need to be solved. As teachers, we must guide and facilitate that learning.
What are the Students and Teachers Doing in Math Workshop?
Students do most of the math, make choices, talk about their thinking with their peers, and work collaboratively. They are doing the work in the stations and in small groups, making choices such as what station to do, who to work with, what task to complete, or simply choosing the strategy that will work best to solve a problem.
Students also share their thinking and participate in the discourse. Discourse is meaningful because it builds:
- Oral communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Understanding different perspectives and empathy
- Builds relationships
During Math Workshop, teachers work with students in many ways.
- Facilitating by asking questions such as “How do you know?”
- Connecting to the real world
- Monitoring participation
- Taking anecdotal notes
- Teaching in small groups
Another part of teaching in Math Workshops is allowing students to understand that part of the process is to get it wrong. Students need to take ownership of their learning by exploring, sharing, and discussing their strategies. If an approach does not work, they need to try another method.
Benefits of Math Workshop
There are many reasons why the Math Workshop model promotes engagement with students. First, it provides differentiated instruction based on the needs of individual students. You can use small groups to work with students and present a skill at their level. You can remediate or extend these groups.
Math Workshop also encourages independence, responsibility, and risk-taking. When students are allowed to work out a problem independently or with a partner, they are more likely to be engaged in the problem-solving process. In my experience with Math Workshop, students thrive when they can find their solutions to a problem. They love sharing their methods and listening to others share their thinking. This promotes mathematical thinking, discourse, and a positive attitude towards math.
A final benefit of the Math Workshop is that it creates students with a solid foundation in number sense. This is one of my favorite sections of this model. The first few minutes of every lesson are centered around number sense. Students are given a problem and asked to solve it in numerous ways or even describe what they notice or wonder about the problem. Notice and wonder are one of my favorite warm-up activities, and I talk more about them here.
Math Workshop is Engaging and Fun
Math Workshop is a model that allows students to be engaged in solving problems. This includes open-ended problem solving, small group instruction, student choice, and time to practice concepts and skills taught throughout the year.
Through Math Workshop, students do most of the work, making choices, discussing their thinking with others, and working collaboratively. Meanwhile, the teacher acts as the facilitator, the connector, and the data collector and works in small groups with students to meet the needs of all students.