Differentiating instruction is one of the greatest challenges for self-contained classroom teachers. Gone are the days of whole group lessons, and assigning the same activities to the entire class. We now teach in a student-centered environment where personalized learning is key.
Fortunately, our students are more engaged and successful than with the former instructional model. Unfortunately, teachers often feel swamped by the prep, coordination, and organization required to maintain quality differentiation. The key to keeping overwhelm at bay is the use of consistent routines and frameworks like math workshop, daily 5, reader’s workshop, and writer’s workshop throughout the day.
What Is Math Workshop?
Math Workshop is a framework that allows students to learn new math content each day, practice math strategies in a variety of ways, and reflect on learning through verbal or written sharing. The predictable structure of math workshop makes it easier for students to participate in differentiated activities.
The components of Math Workshop include:
- Daily math warm up (10-15 minutes)
- Mini lesson (10 minutes)
- M.A.T.H. practice time (40 minutes)
- Share (5-10 minutes)
Daily Math Warm Up
This is a time when students are provided spiral review, and routine practice with challenging skills that require repetition to achieve mastery. Your math adoption may have a strong spiral review component that can be utilized, or you may be interested in differentiating your warm up through the use of an activity like Number of the Day (you can learn more about why I prefer this option here).
Your students should be able to complete the daily warm up activities with complete independence to set a positive tone for their workshop session each day.
Each day, students participate in a 5-10 minute lesson, during which new math content is introduced. This is one of two very brief times when all students are potentially working on the same activity simultaneously. This is also a time when students can work through personalized lesson sequences using Khan Academy, Front Row, or your own video lessons recorded using a tool like Educreations. To learn more about different mini lesson approaches, click here.
M.A.T.H. Practice Time
Following their daily math lesson, students have an extended work session when they practice the new math skills taught that day, build their problem solving skills by solving performance tasks, get hands-on math practice, work on project based learning, complete assessments, use technology to practice math skills, and receive differentiated instruction from you.
How is this possible? These activities are organized into the following categories, stations, or rotations:
M – Meet with the teacher
Students receive differentiated instruction from you. You can either schedule specific small groups to work with each day, or formatively assess students as they work, and pull individuals and small groups as needed. For more tips on organizing small groups for Math Workshop, click here. If you are interested in learning five tips for efficient data tracking during workshop, read this post.
In my third grade class, I prefer the latter because I can touch base with more students each day using this approach.
A – At your seat
Students work to build their math reasoning, modeling, and problem solving skills. This is a perfect time for students to work on assignments that match their specific skill level. Student independence is a central focus of at your seat work. To learn how to boost student independence during Math Workshop, read this post.
Resources utilized for the at your seat rotation in my third grade class include:
- Reteaching, practice, and enrichment sheets from our math adoption for math drill and equation practice.
- Problem Solving Task Cards for practice with performance tasks, word problems, math modeling, and writing about math reasoning.
- Project based learning units to apply math concepts to real world situations and provide cross-curricular integration.
- Performance tasks
- Math Journals
To read about each of these at your seat activities in detail, click here.
T – Technology
Students build math fact fluency using math websites or apps.
Websites used in my third grade class, depending on the unit, include IXL, Xtra Math, Khan Academy, Quick Math, Hungry Fish, and Multiplication.com.
H – Hands on
Students build math reasoning and fact fluency as they play math games. Providing students with game cards that have a consistent format boosts independence and engagement.
Organizing Student Groups
To maximize efficiency and focus in the classroom, you may want to group students based on a pre-assessment. The groups you form can work through these activities at assigned times to minimize overcrowded at a specific rotation option, and to provide balance in the type of practice students participate in each week.
I use the schedule template above to provide each group with equal opportunity to visit each station. To access this editable schedule template and a set of printable number desk tags, click here. To read all the details about how I organize groups and set our schedule, click here.
Students take a moment to reflect on the math progress made that day and share their thoughts verbally, or in writing. This is the second brief time when all students are potentially working on the same activity simultaneously. A few methods for sharing include:
- Buddy share out: share a reflection, or the response to a specific question with a math buddy.
- Whiteboard share: write a reflection, or sharing response on a whiteboard.
- Journal share: write a reflection, or sharing response in a journal.
- Exit Ticket: write the response to a specific question on a whiteboard, or on a slip of paper.
- Whole class share out: take a moment to reflect silently, then share a reflection with the class.
The Benefits of Math Workshop
Since implementing the Math Workshop framework in my third grade classroom, math time has become one of our favorite parts of the day.
Students are more engaged because they participate in a variety of activities each day. Student achievement has grown because students are engaged in math work that is just right for them.
My math prep time is minimal because I rarely need to change centers, print materials, or prep elaborate lessons. I have more assessment data because I interact with students and can provide them support at their level.
Interested In Learning More?
For more details about Math Workshop, check out my other posts about this instructional approach.
How to introduce Math Workshop in your classroom:
Details about M.A.T.H. Rotations:
- Overview: Differentiate Instruction with Math Workshop
- Warm Up: Number of the Day Binder
- Mini Lesson: 3 Approaches To Formatting Lessons for Math Workshop
- Meet with the Teacher: How To Organize Small Groups for Math Workshop
- Meet with the Teacher: 5 Steps To Efficient Data Tracking
- At Your Seat: Top 5 Ideas for Math Workshop At Your Seat
- At Your Seat: Boost Problem Solving Skills
- Hands On: Tips for Making Math Games A Success
Math Workshop classroom management tips:
- How To Boost Student Independence With Math Triads
- Incorporating Project Based Learning Into Math Workshop
- How To Make Transitions Efficient During Math Workshop
Ready To Give Math Workshop A Try?
If you want to give Math Workshop a test drive in your own classroom, grab your Math Workshop Starter Kit, and feel free to share any questions you have about implementation in the comments below.