Math Workshop - Part 2

Last week I wrote an overview of math workshop.  You can find it here. Today, I’m going to explain a little more about how I set up math workshop in my classroom.  I know many teachers use a rotation of 4 centers which usually includes a teacher station, math facts, something related to the lesson and a game.  We started out with something similar only we broke the class into 3 groups and had them do three rotations a day.  While it was awesome to see every student every day, it became overwhelming to plan that many activities for the whole week.  After some tweaking, we decided to break the class into 5 groups (based on ability and need) and have six stations that they rotated through during the course of the week.  Our week looked like this:

Monday – longer lesson, sometimes we would teach games they would use during workshop that week, or explain some of the stations they would be using
Tuesday - longer lesson, sometimes we would teach games they would use during workshop that week, or explain some of the stations they would be using
Wednesday – a mini lesson, two rotations of math workshop, share
Thursday – a mini lesson, two rotations of math workshop, share
Friday – a mini lesson, two rotations of math workshop, share

This new format allowed us a few things that we felt were missing with the daily math workshop rotations.  First, we had two days to teach longer lessons, which was awesome because we found that certain topics just needed more time than a mini lesson would allow.  Second, we had two days to get them ready for math workshop and explain each station so that once Wednesday came, they could get right to work – no explanations needed.  Third, it was much easier to plan and prep six stations for the entire week. Finally, we still got to see all of our students every week and spend time with them in small groups and individually when needed.

There are three components to the workshop format: Mini lesson, independent practice and share.  Here are some ideas about what each of these parts could look like.

Mini Lesson

Our mini lessons were different each day but here are a few suggestions of ideas you could try. 
-Picture books – read a book that connects to the topic
-Pose a problem for them to solve in their math journal, don’t discuss until share time
-Model how to do a certain type of math problem
-Teach a game or activity
-Create an anchor chart about the topic you are covering including strategies to solve problems

Independent Practice

Our independent practice was the six rotations that the students went to throughout the week.  We had a few stations that we kept the same every week and just changed the activity.  These included:

-Teacher Station – depending on the groups’ needs, we would sometimes review a concept, teach a new concept, practice problems on individual white boards, teach a game, etc.

-Worksheet Station – this was one of the only times throughout the week where we would actually use pencil and paper practice.  We called it worksheet but you could easily use task cards or math journals at this station to have them practice the concept

-Computer Station – students worked with partners (we only had 3 computers in the classroom) and played a game related to the topic for the week.  Some of the games we found could be differentiated for each group.  Sometimes we would review concepts during this station.

-Number Sense – the activities at this station usually changed but we tried to remember to plan for something number related each week.  This included activities like scrolls (writing numbers up to 1,000), number books (different ways to write the same number), card games or flash cards, etc. 

- Estimate It , Sort It , Graph It – This station was a three week rotation.  The first week they would estimate the items.  We usually tried to use seasonal items (Halloween candy, Christmas ornaments, fake flowers, etc.)  The next week they would sort the same items three different ways.  The following week, they would graph those items using a bar graph or a pictograph depending on the time of the year. 

That left one station that we would try to come up with a game or activity directly related to the topic of the week.  Some weeks we had lots of ideas of activities to do or we needed to use a station for a review of an older concept.  During these weeks, we would pull number sense or estimate it, sort it, graph it and replace it with a station related to the current concept. 

Each week, I would post the names of the stations they would be working on so the students had an idea of what to expect. 


Our share was different each day.  Sometimes we would go over the problems posed during the mini lesson and have the students explain their thinking.  Some days we asked questions about what they learned during workshop that day.  Some days (often on Wednesday), we would ask what went well and what could they change.  This was our chance to troubleshoot any potential problems with the whole class to make the rest of the week go smoother. 

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. LOVE the "What are we working on this week?" poster or list. I wish I would have used this in our classroom to give a quick overview for everyone that came in the room and the kiddos.

    I used 6 stations and like I said before except for teacher station and computer station the kids rotated through as they completed each station. Challenge station was usually a hands on matching game, exploration station was usually something that used whiteboards or coloring fact practice, textbook station was a worksheet review, construction station was usually cut/paste activities, and computer/teacher are self-explanatory. Our stations were named to match the program we followed, but it's very similar to your system. :)

    BTW, good visuals for the blog. I love it :)

    1. Thanks! I'm feeling like I have a lack of visuals to include. Apparently taking pictures of what was going on in my classroom was not a priority for me because I have NOTHING! Ugh! I wish I did but I'll have to make do with what I have or can create.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sorry - removed comment above due to typo.

    Second attempt:

    Thank you for posting this Sara I really enjoy reading about how others organise planning and lessons - it is always helpful and insightful.

    Having longer lessons at the start of the week is a great way to introduce weekly math topics.

    Were the weekly math topics linked with other curricular areas or stand alone?


    1. Hi Lisa,
      The weekly topics were directly linked to the curriculum. We taught in units so for example place value, double digit addition, multiplication, measurement, geometry, etc. Depending on the unit it could be a few weeks or a few months long. We planned weekly so we would pick a goal for the week in math (a smaller goal from the big unit) and focus on that for the week. Sometimes that goal would carry over for a week or two and sometimes we could have multiple goals in a week - just depended on the concept and how fast our students "got" it. It just gave us focus and the students more focus on what we were working on since they often thought math workshop was just about playing games and having fun.

      Does that make sense?


  4. Hi Sara,

    Thanks for the additional info - it makes perfect sense.

    The best learning always happens when the children are engaged in having fun!



Your comments are always appreciated! Thank you!!