Saturday, October 22, 2011

First Steps ~ Moving Towards a Math Workshop

I recently finished reading Math Exchanges by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, and experienced an awakening of sorts. I have met with two colleagues (who have read or will be reading Math Exchanges) and we are now ready to start making some changes to our math blocks to better meet the needs of our students. I have many ideas running through my head and so to help me organize my thoughts, I am just going to create a list of things I plan to change and/or try.

Before I begin, I should probably say that my school is an Everyday Math school. I do like Everyday Math but I often wish I had more flexibility with my time and I feel that my students need a deeper understanding of number sense and more problem solving. These are both present in Everyday Math but I think my students need more. I generally follow the Everyday Math program fairly closely but I want to have more of a workshop feel than I currently do. Everyday Math lessons follow a predictable format: mental math and reflexes, a whole group lesson, practice which can include independent work, partner work and games which is similar to a workshop model. After doing some thinking and talking with my teammates we decided that we can use most of these parts and create more of a workshop feel on our own. So we will still use Everyday Math but will begin to tweak things more and more as the year progresses.

Below are some of my ideas of things that I want to try and/or change.
  • The first thing that I plan to do is to be more open to "going with the flow" of ideas that come up naturally in any math related discussion. I will not keep one eye on the clock and worry about "getting finished" on time. I will follow the students' thinking and have them share more with the rest of the class. This will help foster that workshop feeling that I am trying to create.
  • The next thing that I want to add is to begin to use what Kassia Omohundro Wedekind calls Mathematician Statements. These statements are just lists of things that mathematician do. Some examples include: Mathematicians ask themselves questions and Mathematicians persevere. This will help to develop the workshop culture by labeling the actions that mathematicians do as they solve problems.
  • I also plan to add small group meeting times or Math Exchanges to our day. I'll start with meeting with one small group each day towards the end of our math time. These groups will be heterogeneous and will change over time. My goals for the small group meetings are to be able to work more closely with students because they are in a smaller group, to have more time for students to share their ideas with each other, and to be able to gather data about how each student approaches problems and what they know and can do. I also hope that students will feel more comfortable sharing their thinking in a smaller group. 
  • Another way that I plan to add more math to my day is to do some math during our morning meeting. I have two books that I am planning to use to help me with this. They are Doing Math in Morning Meeting by Andy Dousis and Margaret Berry Wilson and Number Sense Routines by Jessica Shumway.
  • I will also use many of the ideas in Number Sense Routines to add to the mental math portion of the Everyday Math lesson. I have ten frames that I made years ago and haven't used much lately at all. I can't wait to dust them off.
  • I also made many games that I read about in a book by Constance Kamii years ago. (I can no longer remember the name of that book.) I plan to use these along with other activities like counting collections (from Math Exchanges) to provide choices of things for students to work on while I meet with my small group each day.
  • Keeping notes on student strengths and next steps will also be part of my small group time each day.
  • Finally, I want to take Kassia Omohundro Wedekind's advice and teach my students to live like mathematicians. I want us to notice the math that is all around us all the time and to take the time to bring it up and talk about it.
So this is where I plan to start. I still hope to continue to move towards a more full-blown math workshop but I am starting here and will continue to revise as we move through the rest of the year.

Note to Self: This post is getting long but I wanted to add this note to myself about things to add to our math workshop later. Remember to think about how number talks can fit in and to add technology as one of the choices - things like explaining your thinking in a Voice Thread or in an app like Show Me or Screen Chomp on the iPad. Those can also be future posts.


  1. I love the way you are thinking!! I think I'm going to follow your lead and make my own list to get me started. I've already been dabbling a bit with some ideas, but I feel like I need a little more direction. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Jill,

    I'm so glad to hear that you address using a math series. We use Investigations and I have been reluctant to try a "math workshop" because Investigations supposedly incorporates "workshops". Thanks for the motivation!


  3. Jill,
    Looks and sounds like you have been busy...not surprised! I think mathematics can work in a workshop framework and I think that EDM has things set up sork of workshoppy. Glad you can take what you know and what you've been reading and transform mathematics for our first graders! I do have to say I think you are something that a lot of teachers aren't....a mathematician in your own right. I think that one thing that holds teachers back from the relative freedom and differentiation of a workshop is their "unsureness" about math. Why does literacy seem to fit a workshop model so much better? I think it has nothing to do with the content and all to do with the perceived proficiency of the go girl!

  4. Jill~
    I have been moving in this direction for a few years now. This is the first year without EDM. It's a bit daunting and exciting all at the same time. Two things that have really helped me-
    Recreating our morning routine in the afternoon,but with a math focus! We have an afternoon message, similar to our morning message and and afternoon meeting but, again the focus swiches from literacy to math. This helps me keep the workshop feel.
    The second AHA moment was when I created a guided math notebook identical in structure to my guided reading notebook! This helps me plan and prepare for the math exchanges as well as keep my notes. All so simple and it took me 3 years to come to it!
    Keep sharing you remind me why we do what we do- push ourselves for the kids!

  5. I am looking forward to your update. My school uses the same program; I want to digitally "shadow" your workshop!