In the last two weeks, the Guided Math Book Study has taken us through whole group and small group instruction.  For chapter six, we move on to thinking about what students do during Math Workshop.  Math Workshop can be called many different things however these components can be applied to any period of time where you are working with small groups and students are working on other tasks in small groups or independently.  

Review Previously Mastered Concepts:
We all know that math is a process in which students need repeated practice over previously mastered skills.  They need this practice because they will be continually building off of earlier skills in order to move on to more difficult tasks.  Throughout the school year, you may need to factor in centers or activities into Math Workshop that allow students to practice skills that were once mastered.

Practice for Math Fact Automaticity:
Oh math facts!  As a special education teacher, I see students struggle with these and it is so frustrating both for them and their classroom teacher.  I have many students who work and work at them and STILL can’t master them.  Poor memory skills are often common in lower achieving students.  As teachers, we know that students who have not mastered math facts struggle in so many mathematical areas because they are lacking a solid foundation and require their working memory to be focused on solving math facts versus solving complex math problems.  When possible, we need to provide students with resources to practice math facts during Math Workshop.

Use Mathematical Games to Reinforce Concepts:
I think that times are changing in the educational world.  The use of games in the classroom is growing more and more popular in order to practice skills in all subjects, especially math.  When I was in school, we did book work or worksheets.  Games were a reward and were rarely used.  Thanks to TeachersPayTeachers and other online resources, I see more and more teachers using these in the classrooms.  We are competing with computer and video games, a textbook full of math problems is not going to be engaging to them! Bring on the games!

Practice Problem Solving:
Students need a LOT of practice with problem solving and isn’t that the goal of math in general?  To solve problems and apply them to real life?  We need to provide students with the procedures and strategies needed to solve problems and then allow them the time to practice it.  Sammons suggests having the problem solving center stocked with “markers, chart paper, graph paper, stickers, glue, and scissors to create representations of the problems.”  If these materials are available to them to use while solving problems, they can show their understanding in journals or response sheets.  I don’t know about you, but I’m adding that to my “Summer To-Do List.”  She also suggests assigning jobs to students working in problem solving groups together.  One person could be the leader who is in charge of reading the problem and leads the discussion about how to tackle the problem.  While another may be assigned to gather and clean up materials used in solving the actual problem.  By assigning roles, this eliminates students arguing over how to approach or solve a problem.  They can just get to work!

Investigate Mathematical Concepts:
This is something that I am so excited to implement into my classroom.  I am working on finding and creating various investigations that allow students to investigate math in real life situations.  During Math Investigations, you provide students with a task relating current events or the time of school year.  Some suggestions from Sammons were to have students research election data and analyze it, planning classroom purchases of materials, planning a classroom garden, or researching types of transportation and the costs and time frames associated with travel.  Depending on your grade level, you could create many investigations for students to complete throughout the school year.  You could make them as big or as small as you wish based on the time you have to dedicate to it.

Write in Math Journals:
Writing + Math = Difficult for students!  I remember my first college class where I had to write a paper about math concepts.  Can you say difficult?  By the end of the semester, I was a master at it.  Did something change about my mathematical understanding?  Not really, I was just presented with opportunities to where I could practice my skill and receive feedback.  Overtime, I became a better writer about math concepts.  Students need this practice as well.  They need opportunities to “record mathematical observations, meanings of vocabulary words, write about conjectures they have made, to log steps they used in solving a problem, and write about their understanding of mathematical concepts.” (Sammons, 196)  I can’t wait to implement Teaching to Inspire in 5th’s Math Journals in my classroom next year!

Complete Computer-Related Work:
Just as mentioned with using mathematical games to help reinforce math skills, you can do the same with computer games.  By aligning them with the current curriculum or skills that need continual practice and teaching them how to use the properly while working independently, they can be an extremely effective use of independent work time.

Complete Math-Related Work from Other Subject Areas:
Since math is rarely used in isolation, math workshop is a perfect time to tie in other subjects to allow students to see real life applications of concepts you are working on.  Find engaging activities that allow students to relate what they are currently learning to other subjects!  Plus, you kill two birds with one stone!  🙂

Complete Work from Small-Group Instruction:
So let’s say you begin working with a small group.  You do a quick lesson.  You get them started on an assessment or assignment.  They are doing pretty well independently.  Do you have to hover over them until they complete it?  No!  Send them off to work on their own during Math Workshop time.  When they have completed the assignment, they can turn it in to a predetermined area.  This allows you to move on to the next group and be more productive during the allotted time.  Just remember, there isn’t a rule that says ‘What happens in small-group stays in small group.’  It is ok to branch off and allow them to finish on their own.

What do you do during Math Workshop?

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