Friday, December 12, 2014

Making Math Workshop Work

Time to talk some math workshop! I was inspired a few days ago by one of my Instagram followers, who asked if I had any ideas how to implement math workshop in a 45 minute class period. My initial thought was...NO WAY. There is no way you could squeeze in centers in that short of a time! Then I started thinking about it...and I thought it would be great to start a place to explore some of the different ways math workshop ideas can be implemented. Below I listed some of the structures I have either seen or thought of. Of course, these aren't the only options, but I wanted to at least get the ball rolling! If you are using math workshop, I'd love to hear any other ideas you have about how to structure your classroom in the comments section below! Also, check out some of the links at the bottom of this post if you are in need of materials and resources to get math workshop started in your middle school math classroom!

Every Center Every Day
Works for: Long length and large class size OR medium length and small class size

If scheduling makes it possible, I feel like this is the ideal math workshop set up. If you have 60 minute classes and small class sizes (like I do this year!), this can work. Students are divided into four groups, with four to six students in each group. Students travel to all four centers every day. I personally prefer a quick warm-up problem, a brief intro to the new lesson, four 10 minute centers, and a brief wrap-up at the end of class. Centers can vary, but I have been using a Teacher Center, Homework Center, Tech/Hands-On Center, and Problem Solving Center.

This also works with 80+ minutes classes and larger class sizes. You could split students into five groups to keep each group size manageable. For example, a class of 30 slit into 5 groups of 6 students. The five group option requires an extra center of planning, since students are in five groups and travel to 5 centers each day. I used this format last year and divided my centers into a Teacher, Homework, Technology, Hands-on, and Problem Solving center (same as above but I split up the Tech/Hands-on into two separate centers).

Lesson - Work Time - 2 Centers
Works for: Medium or long length and any class size

With this structure you would have a normal warm-up and lesson, as a whole group, to introduce your new concept (20-30 minutes). This would be followed by a work time (10-15 minutes), for the whole class, to start practicing on homework problems. After the short work time, students would then be split into four groups. However unlike the everyday every center format above, each group only goes to two centers each day (about 10 minutes each). For example, let's say we have students divided into groups A, B, C, and D. There are four different centers 1, 2, 3, and 4. If I am in group A, I would maybe go to center 1 and 2 on Monday and then center 3 and 4 on Tuesday. Here is a chart that shows a possible rotation.

This could also work with larger classes that are divided into five groups. The centers, like I mentioned above, can vary depending on the teacher and class.

Lesson - Work Time - 1 Center
Works for: Short or medium length and any class size
This would be similar to the two center format I described above, however students only travel to one station per day. This is one option if you have short class periods (50 minutes or less) and want to incorporate some of the aspects of math workshop every day. Students would have a quick warm-up and lesson on the new concept. This might take 20-30 minutes, depending on the day. The work time would be about 10 minutes. This would leave you with a 10-20 minutes for each group to go to one center and then do any sort of wrap-up or exit slip at the end of class.  A possible chart might look like this.

Regular Lesson 2 Centers Per Day 
Works for: Short length and small class size
This is another option if you have shorter classes (50 minutes or less). This structure would involve a brief warm-up and lesson on the new concept (20-30 minutes). Then students would travel to two centers. However, to be sure that all students have a center that is a work time to start on homework, it would be set up something like this.

Like I said earlier, these are by no means the only options if you are looking to incorporate math workshop into your daily classroom routine. I wanted to start a forum to hear some of the ways that math workshop ideas can be implemented in the classroom to help students succeed! I would love to hear ideas, questions, or how you are using math workshop with your students in the comments section below! If you are interested in getting some resources to get you started, I have bundles available for both 6th grade math and 8th grade math at the links below!

6th Grade Math Mega Bundle
8th Grade Math Mega Bundle


  1. Thank you for this blog post. I've been informing myself on Math Workshops for s few months now but there isn't much information on the actual set up and logistics of it. You did a fantastic job doing just that. I promise to give you credit in all future curriculum developments I make. Thank you again .

  2. Thanks! Glad it was useful! Like I said in the post, these aren't the only structures...just a few I have used or heard of people using in their classrooms! :)

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  4. Thank you so very much for displaying various ways to obtaining math workshop! I often thought of it as a difficult feat. God bless!

  5. Thanks! Some great ideas that I am going to try to implement.

  6. How do you get through the curriculum with math workshop? Can you sharing pacing? And possibly plans for a week?

    1. I typically do a new concept each day. The pacing is similar to if you were doing a non-math workshop structure. Here is an example of my plans. The Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are math workshop days (although typically I do it 4-5 days per week).