How can one teacher possibly differentiate math instruction so that students at various levels of comprehension and with differing learning styles are able to progress within the same math class? In her book, Math Workshops: Five Steps to Implementing Guided Math, Learning Stations, Reflections, and More, author Jennifer Lempp offers a solution for tackling this immense challenge. The beauty of the math workshop model is that it is flexible enough and comprehensive enough to address and support all learners’ needs.
What is Math Workshop?
Math Workshop is a model of instruction and a philosophy of how math class can be structured to maximize opportunities for differentiated instruction, formative assessment, and student-centered learning. Formative assessment is integral to math workshop, as it helps inform the teacher, not only about individual students’ comprehension, but also about which of three class structures, carefully developed and outlined by Jennifer Lempp, will best serve student needs at any given time.
This math workshop model lends itself extremely well to such crucial ongoing instructional decisions. The teacher chooses from the following three math class structures, as detailed by Lempp, depending on her assessment of her students’ needs and the content being taught each day:
- Task and Share
- Focus Lesson, Guided Math, and Learning Stations
- Guided Math and Learning Stations
Every class starts with a number sense routine and ends with reflection. In between, students are involved in purposeful math tasks, either individually or in pairs, small groups, focus lessons, guided math groups, or learning stations. As the teacher assumes the role of a facilitator, students are able to explore, discover, and ultimately become the creators of their math learning through rich, yet accessible tasks that allow for productive struggle.
Student Engagement Builds Confident Learners
At the heart of Jennifer Lempp’s math workshop message is one of her core beliefs about teaching children: that a very important key to optimizing learning is student engagement. Engagement comes from joyful excitement, from students feeling that they can understand, make discoveries and solve problems for themselves, and achieve. As dedicated educators, we all strive to see the spark of excitement in students when they are actively engaged in their own math learning, and when they have the confidence to rely on their own reasoning to approach new problems.
Jennifer Lempp’s Math Workshop is a research-based tool to help math educators bring that joyful student engagement to their classrooms. Don’t miss our Facebook Live interview with Jennifer!
Diane Reynolds is a Director of Professional Learning for Math Solutions. She works with districts to design and deliver professional development for district-level administrators, school-based math leadership teams, math coaches, and teachers across the country.