Math Workshop

I've gotten a few questions about the way I run math over the past few months, so I think it's time for a post to explain it! I have taught math in workshop format for the last couple years. I have really had a lot of success with the format. I love the fact that I talk to every kid, every day about their learning. I get some verbal assessment time to check and see what they know, and they get to prove that they "got it" after each lesson. The kids love it, too, because they get to play a game every day! I think the most important thing to do before you get going is to get organized- especially with older kids. If you know, down to the minute, what kids should be doing they are far more likely to do it.

I have 90 minutes for math each day, give or take 5 - 10 minutes for transitions. That sounds like a lot of time for transitions, I know, but we have departmentalized this year for the first time. The kiddos are still getting used to it! Here is the breakdown of my time block:

10 minutes - "do now"
20 minutes- whole class lesson
40 minutes- groups
10 minutes - debrief

To keep track of the madness of the workshop, I have a bulletin board dedicated to running of math workshop.

The left side of the bulletin board tells each group the order of the stations that they will attend. My groups are named after owls, because that's my theme. :) So, the barn owls go to me first, independent practice next, then the math game, then end it with "teacher's choice."  On the right, I have a pocket chart with the name of each station. In the pocket chart each day, I place a description of what the students are doing at each station. This board is much of the reason the workshop runs well! The kids aren't constantly bugging me for directions again (and again), and the plans for the math period are clearly laid out.

Do Now
I begin each class with a standard, predictable "do now" activity. When I begin every math class, the kids are just completing some sort of hallway transition and need an activity to help them get down to business. Our "do now" activity is a group problem solving activity based upon the lesson we are about to learn. They are assigned to work in mixed ability groups with people that sit near them (I call them "neighborhoods"). They are given a problem that they have not yet been taught how to solve, and they work together to see if they can solve it. At the end of the activity, I randomly call on 2 groups to share their answers. I let them give their answer as well as an explanation of how they got there, but I never tell them if they are right or wrong. At the end of the lesson, we touch back in on it. 

Whole Class Lesson
This is the "traditional" teaching part of my lesson. I teach the concept to the whole class. We review vocabulary, touch on our prior learnings, and then get direct instruction time. If we are running short on time because of delayed transitions, this is the section I cut some time from. We do one or two problems together in the whole class lesson as well, but we do not do any true assigned work. 

This is my favorite part of the entire class. The kids are broken up into leveled groups- of course, they do not know they are leveled! The groups change for each topic based upon the students ability within that topic. There are four stations, as well, so every group is always at a station. The stations are:
Teacher Choice- this station changes daily. It could be targeted intervention, math fact review, open response style journal writing, or if they are especially well behaved, another game. 
Independent Practice- assigned practice to work on independently. This is their chance to "prove" their knowledge!
With the Teacher- This is targeted reteaching. The kids get instruction from me that fits their need. The lower ability students receive direct, explicit instruction, the mid range students receive reteaching to varying degrees, and the higher students have a quick reteaching, followed by enrichment. The great thing about the small groups is that I have the ability to stop and break it down for one or two students. I've had days that the higher ability group is struggling, and I have had to back it up and give them direct instruction. Other days, I have found that my mid range group needs tons of enrichment because it just "clicked." I have hte freedom to talk to the students about their learning and see where they truly are at. I can meet their needs- no matter what they are. 
Math Game- Here, they play the math game related to the topic we are playing. Honestly, this is their favorite part. They love the fact that they get to play games! Little do they know, I'm a sneaky teacher, and they are actually learning and talking about what they learned. Ha. :)

Here, we talk again about the "do now" activity. I give them the correct answer, and ask them to correct their process if they did not get it correct the first time. We also talk about what we learned and what the important take-aways are. If we have extra time, we do a sneak peek of tomorrow's lesson.

So, there it is. I'll be honest- it's not without it's problems. Sometimes I have to move kids to groups they do not belong in because of behaviors. It take a lot (and I mean A LOT) of training to get kids into the rhythm of the workshop. I have a few helpers that take out and put away the stations, which is a huge help. I also have found that the chatty kids WILL chat- no matter where you put them! I try to contain the off topic behavior as much as possible, but I also have to let some go- which is not in my nature. :)

Linking up with Jivey for the very first time for Workshop Wednesdays!


  1. Thanks for sharing how you run Math Workshop. This is my first year trying it out. I wish I had 90 min!

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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    1. ​I​ couldn't do it without 90 minutes! It's insane how much there is to get done. In fact, I wish I had 120. :)​

  2. Wow! 90 minutes is a ton of time! We have 65ish minutes, which is still good. :) Thanks for linking up! I love your bulletin board!

  3. We so much love this kindergarten because it offers a versatile program that stimulates our child, and provides her education in a caring and loving environment.
    Phoenix pre-k


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