How to Rock Your Math Workshop for Ultimate Student Growth

We have worked our way through the entire math workshop series and now I want to focus on how you can take the entire math workshop as a whole and utilize it to create ultimate student growth. It takes a bit more than just the structure of math workshop to skyrocket your students’ scores, but the model does help. It takes a few other things that when combined together can be quite powerful.

There's 10 ways you can increase student growth with the math workshop model. This post goes over them in detail. Which is your favorite? Save this pin and click through to learn more!

As I work through this list, be careful to not dismiss any thinking you don’t have time for it or that it’s not that important. Each element is just as important as another. When each component is worked into your math workshop, it creates the perfect combination and environment for your students to explore, make mathematical connections, and become mathematicians.

The Elements of Ultimate Student Growth

1. Build Community.

As with every classroom, when you build community, you are teaching students to work together and help one another. Students are learning to encourage rather than put one another down. This creates plenty of opportunities for risk-taking and discussion.

2. Use Growth Mindset

Having a Growth Mindset is one way to increase student growth during math workshop! Check out this post to find out the other ways!

Change the students’ thinking from “math isn’t my thing…” or “I’m not good at math…” to a growth mindset. Teach them to say things like, “I don’t know this yet…” or “Math can be my thing…” Help your students decrease their anxiety about math, which will then help them increase their engagement. This will lead to increased achievement. It’s already been proven that a growth mindset definitely leads to student growth.

3. Create a Culture of Math

Surround students with math everywhere they look. Point out math in our every day life- when they are standing in line for lunch, when they are in music class, etc. Use tasks with multiple answers, number sense routines regularly, number talks, and which does not belong tasks. Constantly encourage students to use a variety of strategies and solutions. Use rich math vocabulary and language.

4. Help Students View Themselves as Mathematicians

Remind students that mathematicians look at errors as learning opportunities and enjoy problem-solving. Emphasize the satisfaction they will feel when they finally solve a problem they have been struggling with. Model how to give feedback and participate in mathematical discussions using math vocabulary. Teach students how to justify their work. When students start to look at themselves as mathematicians, you will definitely start to see student growth!

5. Keep Problem Solving at the Core of Everything

One major emphasis of the Common Core Standards is getting our students to start using more cognitive strategies. They want our students to think more and be able to think outside the box. In a world where we have information at our fingertips, where we can look up any information we need, students need to be able to think, rotate, and do things with that information beyond just absorb it. Try to help your students think critically every day with a little problem solving to push them into that zone. When students can think critically, student growth will exceed your expectations.

6. Use the Levels of Learning

In my post, Teaching Math So Students Get It, I talk about the CRA method. For students to have a deeper understanding of math and make connections between background knowledge and new knowledge, they need to work through the three levels of learning.

These levels of learning are so important when teaching math so that your students can increase their student growth.

The first level is the concrete level. This level is a more hands-on/manipulative level. It is the “doing” process of math. It’s typically a “spiral review” or a “hands-on” station.

The second level is the representational level. This level is where students draw (represent) the manipulatives using paper and pencil. The “seeing” process of math. Typically the “meet with the teacher” in small groups portion.

The third level is the abstract level. This level uses math symbols and numbers. Without the previous steps, students often don’t understand the why or how of the concept. Practiced in stations, such as games, and independent work.

Students need lots of opportunities for hands-on activities, problem solving, investigations, and to get descriptive feedback WITHOUT skipping any of these levels.

7. Hold Students Accountable

Another way to increase student growth is by holding students accountable during your math workshop. This can be done through a variety of methods. You can have students turn in math notebooks/journals each week. You can keep a notebook with anecdotal notes from your observations, small groups, or conferences. You can collect skill practice pages but not tell students which one you’ll be grading that week. (You do NOT need to grade every page. See the 6 grading mistakes you may be making.) Students could take a photo of completed math with an iPad or tablet (make sure their name tag is in the photo). Students could complete an exit ticket, complete work on a website, glue a math center into a math notebook, or complete xtra math until they get a green checkmark.

8. Have a Management System in Place

Not only should you have a classroom management system in place for your classroom, but also in place for running your math workshop. Just as during the beginning of the school year you’ll need to walk students through every procedure and routine, you’ll need to do that with math workshop. Slowly introduce each center and each structure piece. Once the students have the component down, then you can introduce another. Model, practice, and repeat. Teach the students how to organize the materials, how to transition, where to place things, and what your expectations are. Provide lots of feedback. Do not start small groups until students can work independently in all other areas.

Have a system in place for students who can’t handle math workshop. For instance, use eye contact or a stern look first and if it continues then move to the student and privately talk to him or her. Then if the problem continues, move the student to sit away from others or near you.

Routines and procedures will be a HUGE piece to success.

9. Assess Regularly

We've all used exit tickets in our classroom for informal assessment, but sometimes it can become boring. Read this post to get exit ticket ideas on how you can engage students with exit slips and still assess your students!

Another very important process to student growth is assessment. Assessment, both informal and formal, helps you determine what students know and don’t know so that you can spend time on what’s really important to move your students forward. There’s no point in reviewing information they know really well when that time can be spent on intervention of content they don’t know.

10. Trust the Process

In the beginning of math workshop, it may seem like a lot to take in. You do not have to do it all right away. Start in little pieces- do it in phases. When you feel comfortable, add a bit more. The ultimate point is to trust the process rather than give up, because as with everything new, it takes time. It’s been proven to work and increase student growth.

When you combine the components of math workshop with these elements listed above, you’ll definitely see increased student growth. Do you need to do them all right away to see that? No. Work at it a little at a time.

If you’re looking for already created lesson plans, activities, and more, check out my math workshop units for grades 3, 4, and 5 in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can find them here.

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Want to read more about Math Workshop? Check out these additional “Everything You Need to Know to Run Math Workshop Successfully” Posts:

  1. Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Run Math Workshop (Intro to what math workshop is and it’s benefits)
  2. Why Your Math Workshop Model is Not Flexible (and How to Fix It!) (The math workshop structure and your options to being flexible)
  3. How to Teach Your Math Opening Like a Pro (All about the math openings of math workshop)
  4. How to Take the Headache Out of Mini-Lessons in Math Workshop (All about the whole group component of math workshop)
  5. Make the Most Out of Guided Math (All about the guided math component of math workshop)
  6. Are Guided Math Centers Really That Hard? (About the choices in guided math centers)
  7. 3 Super Easy Alternatives to Math Centers (About alternatives to math centers during guided math)
  8. The Importance of Meeting with Students During Math Workshop (All about one-to-one conferring and guided math groups)
  9. Lesson Closures for Math Workshop (Ideas for how to close your math workshop)
  10. How to Rock Your Math Workshop for Ultimate Student Growth (Tips for increasing student growth in math workshop)

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