Creating an Effective Math Workshop Structure


Establishing routine in the classroom is a crucial step to having a successful year for your students (and yourself as the teacher). In this style of math workshop, students spend the majority of the time engaged in the same type of math at the same time. This gives the teacher more time to travel to groups of students (ideally groups of 4) in order to assist and help students find their “just-right” level for the day’s concept. Described below are the parts of my take on math workshop. These are described under the assumption that the teacher tells the class when students are “moving” from one part of the workshop to the next. Moving has been placed in quotation marks, as this is a mental shift between parts, not a physical movement. In this version of workshop, the teacher is to one moving until Part four. Once the class is ready for this math rotation and math conferring, it is a quick transition of no more than 2 minutes.

Part I. Math Focus (5 minutes) – In the first part of math workshop, students enter the room and head with their math notebooks, black data binders, and pencils to their “group spots” on the carpet. Together as a class, we read the math focus question of the day. This often changes with the official math target, but is almost always a “how can I?” question.

The next step of the math focus is to review the official math target and then for students to rate themselves on their understanding of this statement. We use a 4 point rating scale.

Students then have a chance to review the 8 standards for mathematical practice and then to recite our 5 “math talk” words. This list changes depending on the needs of students and on the unit of study.

Part II. Math Talk (10-20 minutes) – Math talk can look very different from day-to-day, but always includes a teacher-directed mini-lesson focused on either a strategy, skill, vocabulary, review, or game. Occasionally we will also watch a video relating to the math focus of the day. Two great resources for videos are and

Part III. Partner Math (10 minutes) – The Partner Math portion of Math Workshop also varies throughout a unit, while math partners throughout each unit remain constant. This is a built-in time to practice the Math Talk of the day with at least one other student. We have 5 groups in our room, and each group has the chance for differentiated practice problems based on the math focus of the day.

This is also a chance to learn how to help and encourage others, explain math thinking, read about math in the real world, and to look for faster ways to solve problems. Before we transition into Part IV, we have a quick group summary. This is a chance to state what was practiced and to ask any questions or celebrations about the Math Talk. We will also have a check of how we are rating ourselves on our math target.

Part IV. Math Rotations with Math Conferring (20 minutes) – This is the time for students to finish any partner math assignment and then to focus on their own math goals. Sometimes there will be practice sheets, other times a game or manipulative activity, and other times students will have a chance for online math practice via one of our free math programs. Groups of students have one rotation each day in order for this specific math practice to happen. One of these rotations is meeting with the teacher. During this time, students may have a quick assessment on the current math concept. This is also a time to think and talk deeply about the math concepts at “just-right” levels for students. The last 5 minutes of math workshop are devoted to students working on an exit slip or other formative assessment option.


Source by Desiree Harrison