It is way past time to reflect back on how moving to a math workshop is going in my classroom. Overall, I am very happy with how things are going but I have to admit that things are not going exactly how I planned. Isn't that often the case, though?
I had planned to start slowly and begin meeting with one small group each day towards the end of our Math time but that turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I was always so involved with working with individuals that I lost track of time and didn't have time to meet with my new group. I think I was having trouble changing how I used my time each day. I couldn't break out of my normal math routine. So I had to come up with Plan B.
Plan B was to do Everyday Math on Monday through Thursday and then spend all of my math time on Fridays meeting with small groups to do Math Exchanges type work. This is going very well. My class and I really look forward to Fridays. We do three rotations during which I meet with 3 different heterogeneous groups of 4 students. My Educational Assistant (who also happens to be a certified teacher - I know- how lucky am I?) also meets with 3 groups during these rotations, too. This means that we are able to meet with almost all of our students every Friday. We rotate through the groups so that we eventually see all of the groups.
While this is going on, the students not meeting in a group with one of the teachers do other math activities. We have various centers that they can choose from including computers, Everyday Math games and other math games. We have a parent volunteer who comes in and helps manage these centers and answer any questions that might come up. So far it is running very smoothly.
The best part for all of us is the discussions that we have when meeting in the small groups. The kids just jumped right in and were willing to tackle tough problems together right from the start. One of our most recent problems was:
Jill has 10 cookies to share with her friends Mary Beth and Dee. How many cookies will each friend get?
As the first group and I read the problem together, one student immediately started shaking his head saying this won't work. The other students ignored him at first and counted out 10 blocks to begin dividing up the cookies. It didn't take long before the conversation started. They couldn't figure out what to do with the "leftover" cookie. Each group that I met with had the same issue and then had such wonderful discussions to figure out what to do.
Some groups simply refused to cut the cookie into pieces. They just left that cookie out even when I questioned them and tried to get them to look for other solutions. One student said that cookies just crumble when you cut them so you should just leave that cookie out.
Another student used the fact that the names I used in the story were teachers from our school. She decided that I should just give the extra cookie to my daughter, Abby.
One group quickly decided that the leftover cookie had to be cut into 3 pieces but had lots of discussion about how to cut it in a "fair" way. They drew lots of variations that they decided weren't fair (or "fare" as they spelled it). Finally someone in the group thought of cutting the cookie like a "peace sign" and they were all satisfied that this would be fair.