Math Workshop - An Overview

In my last few years of teaching, our district adopted the math workshop model.  We were eager to jump in and try it because it just made sense.  Everything was taught in units with a chance to spiral our curriculum and review certain topics as needed.  This was a vast improvement over the math curriculum that the district had created that we had been using prior to this change.  One of our biggest challenges was figuring out where to start.  At the time, math workshop was a new concept so there were not many resources out there to help us get started.  We were very comfortable with teaching reading and writing workshop but we had read many books and followed the leaders in the industry to get started with those.  Where was our math version of Lucy Calkins or Debbie Miller?  We had so many questions and nowhere to turn.  How did we set up math workshop?  How was it similar to reading or writing workshop?  How was it different from how we taught literacy?  Was it really just a fancy name for centers?  After some district inservices and talking to other teachers in our district who had already tried this new method in their classrooms, we jumped in without the safety net of a published author telling us what to do.  The first year we tried several different versions until we found one that worked for us. 

Math workshop has three major components – mini-lesson, independent practice and share.  While this can be done in a variety of ways, it is usually done through the use of centers/stations/rotations.  Having students rotate through different stations allows them to have different forms of independent practice from worksheets to games to technology to task cards and more.  It also allows teachers to meet with small groups or individuals while the rest of the class is busy and on task. 

Some important things we learned about math workshop:
-Make it your own, there is no right or wrong.  For us, 5 groups with 6 rotations throughout the week worked best.  For other teachers 4 groups and 4 rotations daily works best. 
-Our students LOVED math workshop and were excited about math.
-As teachers we were more excited to teach math using this method.
-Our students seemed to perform better and became deeper thinkers and mathematicians.  We had the chance to review concepts and practice them throughout the year to ensure success.  Concepts were presented and then practiced in a variety of ways targeting all of our different learners.
-It takes organization to make it work.  The more organized and prepared you are, the more smoothly the week runs.

In the coming weeks, I will dig deeper into math workshop and give some ideas for what to do during the mini lesson, independent practice and share portions of workshop.  I’ll also explore some ways to organize math workshop.

I created a document that explains in much more detail how to set up math workshop in an elementary classroom.  It can be found here:

Let me know what questions you have about math workshop so I can try to answer them in future blog posts. 

Happy Teaching,



  1. I used something similar, but our whole school followed Project CHILD for all subjects which uses a workshop type approach to all subjects. We had stations each day that included a "teacher station" to work with small groups and individuals. Our students weren't organized into groups though. They were "free" (guided mostly) to work at their own pace within reason and were encouraged to move from station to station as they finished an activity. It was really neat to watch how this kids grew from the experience.

  2. Very cool. I've never heard of Project CHILD before but it sounds like a great concept.


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