Monday, September 24, 2012


How do you cover everything in your math curriculum using the Math Workshop model? 

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My Math Workshop Rotation Board Packet is one of my most popular products and the related images are some of my most frequently pinned photos. As a result I do get a lot of questions on the logistics of how it works in my room. I suppose, “It. Works. AWESSOME” isn’t the answer people are seeking. :)

I pinky promise I am working on a very comprehensive document that truly outlines all the nitty gritty. It’s been a work in progress for awhile and my hope was to have it done before the new year started, but truthfully I think it will be much more effective if I continue to create it “in real time.” So each day(ish) I add a bit more to it as I reflect on my work in my own classroom. 

The best thing about my math workshop format is that it can be used with ANY math curriculum. Today I wanted to take a moment to answer the most frequently asked question I get regarding the workshop...

I use Investigations. As a curriculum I feel that it has many benefits. As we move toward the Common Core I am amazed at how aligned it already was. The major drawback I found was that the way the lesson was scripted in the teaching guide wasn’t a good fit for our changing population. I’m sure you’ll all agree that it is so much harder to keep kids focused and attentive these days (and OMG that makes me sound like a fossil). I was teaching “as prescribed,” but didn’t feel like I was reaching all of my students and tapping into their true potential as mathematicians.

I started adding some Whole Brain Teaching strategies into the mix and that did help, but I knew I needed to take it a step further. I had success with doing other things in small groups and so I was excited to teach math the same way. The problem was that I needed to make sure that I addressed everything in my curriculum.

It was much easier than I thought and I assume you could do the same with Everyday Math, Singapore, or any other program as well.
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I designed my board/rotations to spell M-A-T-H.

The T was originally “teacher” but sometimes I was needed to circulate so “teacher’s choice” was a more flexible title. 95% of the time it means I am working with a small group.

Here’s what I do...

I look at the lesson for the day and read through the main instruction part. I analyze it to see how much of it I can teach as a whole group at the start of the workshop. As a general guide I aim for a 10 minute mini-lesson. The rest of the lesson is taught in a small group format....4 times. Although my groups as flexible and fluent, I base them on student need. Although I’m teaching the same lesson 4 times I may deliver it 4 different ways to meet their needs. The level of conversation varies depending on ability, but all my students are getting the meat of the lesson in a manner in which they are focused and attentive. So much more effective than having them daydreaming for the better part of a longer group lesson.

Next I look at what the weekly games are. I plug those into my hands-on station. If needed, I create supplemental activities and task cards to further strengthen the skills.

I look at all of the activity pages that are assigned with the curriculum and then plug them into the week as they best fit. I typically will have them review the skills from the day before by doing those activity pages the day after I teach the topic in my small group. “At your seat” may also include math journals, calendar activities, number of the day. 
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The Math Facts station is a hodge podge. It may be flashcards, online games,, board games, etc. Basically anything that gets them working towards fluency on their basic facts. Some are working on addition and subtraction while others are doing multiplication and division. It really is all about individualizing the lessons and activities to target each student’s needs.

I wrap up the math workshop with a reflection and sharing session (again about 10 minutes). It really does allow me to cover everything in the curriculum, but in a more personal and effective manner.

Another option would be to teach your curriculum’s lesson as designed to the whole class and then break them into rotation groups for the follow-up activities and games. It really comes down to meeting the needs to your learning community. Hope that helps clarify things a bit more.

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