Math graphs and charts on a chalkboard
For Teachers Updated April 18, 2018

3 Tips for Running an Elementary School Math Workshop

By The Room 241 Team February 26, 2013

Math graphs and charts on a chalkboardParents, teachers, national and regional schools systems contribute to guidelines for running an elementary school math workshop. Adoption of a math workshop approach can be an effective way to reinforce state learning standards and adopt effective methodology enabling students to discover and understand math concepts intuitively.

NYC uses ‘The Workshop Model’

New York City public schools are required to use this model for teaching. After a brief warm-up question, the class spends the first 10 minutes listening to a brief lesson including some review. During this time, the teacher demonstrates what the students will be doing. Next, students spend 35 minutes working independently. The session ends with five minutes of sharing as a whole. This teaching method is very structured and does not allow for tangents into other subject matters.

Disadvantages to this model

The math workshop model has two main deficiencies. First, some students are unlikely to comprehend the subject matter during the brief time allotted for an overview. Students can easily get left behind, if they’re not confident enough to ask clarifying questions. Second, the very structured format restricts the possibilities for student experimentation. This may need to be adjust if necessary.

Tips for supplemental resources and programs to support a math workshop

Here are three tips to bolster the workshop model so that students are engaged, challenged and don’t miss out in terms of lesson comprehension.

  • Set aside some time on a daily basis for math remediation. It’s easy for a student to get left behind if they miss a concept, so going over concepts covered in a previous lesson allows for students to ask questions and go over additional problems they might have not fully understood.
  • Collaborate with other teachers to create and support a detailed collection of educational activities which will engage a student’s intellect and curiosity. This can include take-home projects that students can enjoy with their parents, friends or on their own. A math club with group projects can include everyone and provide the opportunity for exciting joint ventures in math exploration.
  • Initiate a math buddy system so that struggling math students will have the support of a student, volunteer or staff member who can explain various concepts effectively.

Workshop model examples

The following educational programs and resources illustrate ways in which the workshop model can be externally supported and ensure that students don’t get left behind.

Piscataway Public Schools have many fun and educational activities which can help students continue learning outside the classroom. An example is their FILL IT UP activity for grades K-2 in which students use common containers to explore comparisons, measurement, volume, estimation, and geometry.

Columbia University graduate students participate in a Math Buddies program focused on struggling public school students. The graduate students are from the Teachers College, and work with students on an individual basis for two hours each day at their schools. The experience gained from this program will enable them to find ways to improve low-performing students and schools.

The North Warren Regional School District has an easy-access and flexible Math Remediation Program in their Study Hall Math Lab available to students throughout the day. This is a peer tutoring program focused on the individualized remediation of skills from assessments.

Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. Today MERLOT is made up of over 60,000 faculty, staff, librarians, administrators and students. Though this is a college-oriented resource, many of the materials are suited for upper elementary school through high school.

An elementary math workshop model can work well provided there is supplementary instructional support and alternative opportunity for creative study such as math club.

Concordia University-Portland offers an MEd degree option for math teachers. The Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction concentration addresses developmental learning, acquiring proficiency, problem solving, and demonstrating understanding in mathematics for all children.

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