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Math Workshop: Using Developmental Grouping to Differentiate Your Instruction

By Beth Newingham on May 19, 2010
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

In the past, I taught my math lessons as an entirely "whole-class" event.  I found myself at the front of the classroom teaching while my students sat at their desks trying to understand the new concepts.  There were always some students who found the lesson too easy and, likely out of boredom, tried to do the work before I even finished teaching the lesson.  On the other hand, there were also those students who struggled to understand the concepts and felt lost unless I stopped teaching and went to their individual desks to help them.  For these reasons, I found that teaching math was frustrating.  I was never able to meet the needs of all of my students.  That is when my teaching partner suggested we do Math Workshop after attending Alice Murphy's professional development seminar.  I have no idea why I had not been doing this all along!  I am so passionate about Reading and Writing Workshops because I can provide my students with the differentiated instruction that is so important in elementary school.  Math Workshop now allows me to do the same thing, as I use developmental grouping to differentiate my daily instruction. 

READ ON to learn how I use developmental grouping, math rotation stations, and math games to meet to the needs of my students during Math Workshop.



The Math Workshop model was created seven years ago by a teacher in my county, Alice Murphy.  Some of the information in this post was derived from her presentations and professional development seminars. Visit Alice's Math Workshop Web site to find detailed information about Math Workshop, as well as Everyday Mathematics lesson plans for using this approach in your classroom.  You will also find her contact information so that you can invite her to train teachers at your school or in your district.


How Does Math Workshop Work in Our Classroom?


Developmental Grouping:  Before each unit, we pre-test the students to determine their prior knowledge about the concepts in the unit we are about to teach.  Using that information, we create three groups (high, medium, low).  The students obviously are not told what group they are in, and the groups do change throughout the year as we move through each new unit.  Students are assigned to a group with a name that goes along with our theme.  (See "Math Rotation Stations" picture below.)  We are careful to make sure that the group names change after each unit so that, for example, the high group is not always "The Titanic."


Rotation board





Everyday Math Daily Lessons:  We use Everyday Mathematics in our school district.  It is a great program because it includes lots of math games for the reinforcement of new concepts, and it provides teachers with materials to meet the needs of both gifted and remedial students.  We teach the lessons in the order that they are introduced in the book.  However, we alter the lessons when necessary to meet the needs of our highest math students and our lowest math students by using the "enrichment" and the "readiness" resources provided in the program. (See picture below.)


Differentiation options




Math Rotation Stations: Once the students are divided into three groups, they rotate through three different stations during our daily math period.  Students are typically at each station for 20 minutes.  Below are the descriptions of the three stations.


  • Work With Teacher: At this station, students sit close to me and engage in an interactive lesson that is geared to their needs. I use a small dry erase board, and the students sit on the carpet in front of me so that I can see exactly what they are doing. Students often use portable dry erase boards to practice the concepts we are learning, or we may work together on pages in the math journal.  (I am excited to have a new SMART Board to use during this rotation to make my instruction more interactive and effective!)



  • Independent Practice: Students are at their desks during this rotation, working on pages in their math journal (Everyday Mathematics' term for a math workbook).  They may also be working on teacher-created worksheets or math packets.

Ind work



  • Math Games: At this rotation, students play Everyday Mathematics games or other math games that help them practice the concepts they are learning in each unit.  Students usually play the games with a partner in their group.  However, there are times when the games can be played as a whole group or in larger groups of three to four students.  This rotation can also be a time for students to work on math projects and/or investigations that span multiple days. (Everyday Mathematics even has online games that students can play on the laptops.)


Game1 Game2












In What Order Do the Groups Rotate to Each Station?




Rotation #1:


Lap boards The low group starts with me at the Work With Teacher Station.  I work with this group first so that they are taught the lesson before being asked to work independently or play a game related to the concept I am teaching.  I use a small dry erase board or the interactive whiteboard for my instruction, and the students sit in front of me on the carpet.  They bring their math journal with them because I often have them work on the math journal pages with me during the lesson.  If I notice right away that they are struggling with the concept, I will use the "readiness" materials provided in the Everyday Mathematics lesson or create my own "remedial" resources.  I often copy the "readiness" materials to use just in case I need them if I think they are worthwhile.


The medium group starts at the Math Games Station.  They are often playing the game that is part of that day's Everyday Mathematics lesson, but they may also be playing a game that they have played in the past that corresponds to the concepts in the unit.  Sometimes students are also doing projects at this center, especially during the fraction and geometry units.



The high group starts at the Independent Practice Station.  I have them start at this station because they are often able to do the math journal pages without much instruction.  Each day, they are asked to complete the journal pages that correspond to the lesson I will be teaching.  When they finish those pages, they can also do the math boxes that correspond to the day's lesson.  (Math boxes are practice pages in the math journal that provide students with extra practice on previously learned concepts.)  The high group is also given a math packet created by our "Gifted and Talented" teacher because they often finish the math journal pages before it is time to rotate to the next station.




Rotation #2:




Ind work 2 The low group moves right from the Work With Teacher Station to their own desks at the Independent Practice Station to finish the journal pages we started together.  When they finish those, they can then complete the math boxes for the day.  I have them move to the Independent Practice Station right after working with me so that the new concepts are fresh in their minds.



The medium group now comes to me at the Work With Teacher Station. I always plan to teach the lesson from the book to the medium group.  However, they will sometimes catch on quickly and need to be challenged.  If this happens, I can either do some enrichment with them or just challenge them by giving them some problems similar to the ones in the lesson but making them a little more difficult.  I have a set of portable dry erase boards at my station, so students can work right on their laps.  I like this because they are working right in front of me, and I can immediately see how they are doing.  This group will usually start the journal pages with me, but they will complete most of the work independently at their desks if I feel they are understanding the concept. 



The high group goes to the Games Station to continue practicing the concepts that were introduced in their journal pages.




Rotation #3




Game3 The low group moves to the Games Station now that they hopefully understand the concept that was introduced for the day. Playing the game gives them an additional way to practice what they have learned.



The medium group moves to the Independent Practice Station at their desks to complete the assigned journal pages that correspond to the daily lesson and then the math boxes when they are done with the assigned journal pages.



The high group is the last group I see at the Work With Teacher Station.  Since they have already completed the journal pages for the day's lesson, I take a quick look at those first.  If it looks as though most students in the group already understand the concept, I will use the enrichment materials from the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, or I will do some sort of enrichment that I create on my own.  If the students in this group did not do well on the journal pages, I will teach the regular lesson and make sure that they understand the new concept.




Daily Schedule for Math Block


We have one hour and 20 minutes scheduled for math each day (80 minutes).  Below is exactly what we do during that precious time.



Math on the Water: (810 minutes) This is a student-led activity that is explained in greater detail in a later section of this post. 

HollyLesson Preview & Directions: (58 minutes) During this time, I briefly introduce the concept I will be teaching for the day, specify the journal pages students will be completing in their math journals, announce any materials they will need to do their daily work (rulers, protractors, etc.), and explain the game that students will be playing at the Games Station (if necessary).


Rotation #1: (20 minutes)


Rotation #2: (20 minutes)


Rotation #3: (20 minutes)


Closing: (5 minutes) At the end of math, I call the class back together quickly to reinforce the day's concept.  If there is time, we will correct the daily math journal page as a class.



Don't Always Let the Teacher Edition Determine What You Teach


Math lesson


Once I have completed a lesson, I decide what to do the next day.  If the majority of students in all three groups understood the concept, I will move on to the next lesson with each group.  If the low group needs more practice, however, I will spend another day with them on the same concept.  I can either move ahead with the other two groups or just do additional enrichment.



There are even times when I feel the entire class could use an extra day on a concept.  In this case, I create work for the Independent Practice Station since students would have already completed their Everyday Mathematics journal pages.





Create Your Own Math Games to Enhance Math Workshop


While Everyday Mathematics does provide materials for many games in each unit, my teaching partner and I have also created many games of our own and have purchased some additional math games at teacher stores or online to supplement the Everyday Mathematics games for some of the units.  There are great resources available from the Scholastic Teacher Store that can be used to enhance your Math Games Station, such as Scholastic professional books with reproducible math games and math center ideas.



Website math games



You can also have students play Everyday Mathematics online games or Scholastic online math games if you have computers or laptops in your classroom.


Make Your Math Games Reusable


We copy, cut, and laminate all of the Everyday Mathematics game boards (and any game boards that we use from the Scholastic professional books) so that they are sturdy enough to be used by multiple groups during the year and in years to come.  We also mount and laminate the directions so that students do not need to interrupt us while we are working with another group.


Math game boards


We organize all of our math games in manila envelopes and store them in a cart with drawers so that we know all of the games we have available for each unit and can easily locate them when necessary.



Math Cart




Use Parents as Math Helpers!




Many teachers ask how I manage all three groups when I am only teaching one group.  It does take a few weeks at the beginning of the school year for students to learn to work independently at the Independent Practice Station and work cooperatively and quietly at the Games Station.  One helpful solution is to ask parents to volunteer to be your math helper during math time each day.  The math helper in our classroom works at the Games Station.  He or she can help students understand the directions, manage the groups as they play the game, and hold students accountable for their learning.  There are times when students will not put forth as much effort as they should when the teacher is not looking over their shoulder.  Having a parent watching them as they play the math game helps ensure that students are getting the most out of the activity.  Also, if students have questions about the game they are playing, they do not need to interrupt my teaching. These parents also help out with projects at this station when students are doing collaborative projects as opposed to math games.



To round up parent volunteers for math helpers, we send home a sign-up calendar each month.  We almost always have a parent helper at the Games Station to make sure students are getting the most out of the games they play or the projects they are doing. 



Assessment in Math Workshop


Math Skills Checklist


While we do give unit tests at the end of each unit to check the students' understanding of the concepts we taught in the unit, our overall assessment is ongoing (just as it is in Reading and Writing Workshops).  As my teaching partner and I meet daily with each group at the Work With Teacher Station, we keep a clipboard that has a checklist of skills for the unit.  We have each child's name listed on the checklist so that we can keep track of students who are struggling with any of the concepts we are teaching.  We try to find time to meet individually with struggling students to reteach the difficult concepts or at least check in on their progress.  If an entire group is struggling with a concept in a particular lesson, we will reteach the skill to all students in the group during Math Workshop on another day.



On the sample checklist to the right, you can see that we use "S," "P," and "N." "S" indicates that a child is "secure" with the concept, "P" means the child is "progressing," and "N" means the child "needs additional support." (Please know that this is a sample checklist I made that does not feature real students.)



Math on the Water (Daily Math Review)


We begin Math Workshop every day with what we call "Math on the Water" to go along with our Pier 13 theme.  (Last year we called it "Martian Math" to go along with our space theme.)  During this time, a student teaches the class a short math review lesson that includes three to five skills that have been taught during the current unit or previous units.  See the photos and information below to understand what this time of our day looks like.




Each day a new student has the job of "Captain Math."  It is this student's responsibility to complete parts of the math activities on the Math on the Water board during morning work time. Since students have about eight minutes to teach their lesson, we suggest they pick three to five math problems to do on the board each day.  The student will then complete the problems with the help of the class at the beginning of Math Workshop.  For example, if a child chooses to do a "frames and arrows" activity, he or she might not fill in the rule and just add enough numbers for students to determine the rule and add the missing numbers.





We do math first thing in the afternoon.  Captain Math wears a captain's hat and leads the lesson while the rest of the class sits on the carpet.  Students raise their hands to help Captain Math solve the problems, and the class agrees or disagrees with the final answers.  (Captain Math is also expected to have solved all problems prior to the lesson so that he or she knows the correct answers.)




The Math on the Water board is a magnetic dry erase board that changes on a regular basis to reflect the new skills we learn in each unit.  At the beginning of the year, we have things on the board that the students are expected to have learned in 2nd grade.  However, by the end of the year, the board has everything from fractions and decimals to geometry and double-digit multiplication to reflect all that students have learned.  The board is constantly changing.




Many teachers want copies of all of the things we have on our Math on the Water board.  This would be nearly impossible, as we have hundreds of different concepts we put on the board throughout the year.  Many of the items we use come straight from the Everyday Mathematics curriculum.  These include things like frames and arrows, number grids, "What's My Rule?" charts, number story diagrams, place value charts, name collection boxes, etc. (We enlarge things from the Math Masters book.)  We also use clocks, magnetic money, magnetic geometric shapes, fraction pieces, etc.


Function machine Measurement

All of the activities on the board are printed on colored card stock and then laminated so that students can write on them with Vis-à-Vis markers and clean them off at the end of the day to be used again.


Martian Math


Share Your Math Ideas!

My favorite thing about writing this blog is hearing from other teachers.  Please share the ways that you teach math in your own classrooms!  My fellow "Top Teaching" blogger, Angela Bunyi, conducts a form of Math Workshop in her classroom and is also available to answer any questions you might have.


Reader Request

In some of the comments below, readers asked what my lesson plans look like. So I'm linking to a weekly lesson plan file from early in the school year. It includes all subject areas, but you can see how I plan my differentiation in math.


Comments (115)

When you do planning do you use a separate lesson plan page or just generally make note of the stations in your lesson plan book? If you have a specific template that you use could you share or would you mind sharing it?


We teach with Everyday Math and I am excited to try this approach next year.

I was wondering how you utilize the open response questions with your students. This has been something that I have been struggling with.

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful ideas, Kerstin

Hi Beth! I'm in love with all of your ideas and have been a devoted follower of you since my first year teaching 4 years ago! :-)

Loving the ideas for Math Workshop. I tried this out in my classroom this year, but never quite figured out the scheduling and management. This encourages me to try again next year.

Also, our school had a fairy tale theme this year and with the Calendar Math series I retitled it "Majestic Math." The girl leaders wore rhinestone tiaras and the boys wore king-like crowns. They LOVED it!

I am very excited to use your Math on the Water next school year. I have a couple of questions. You mentioned that the captain must complete each problem on the board but then only teach 3-5 problems to the students. I noticed on your pictures that there are a lot of problems for on the board so does that mean the captain has to complete all of them? Also, I noticed the problems are basically blank, so does the captain make up the problems?

Thank you for all of your great ideas.

Beth ~ Do you post a chart on the board so students know which station they're going to first? Also, what do your lesson plans for math workshop look like?


You asked if I kept notes separate from the checklist that I show in the blog. Since I am teaching the entire time during math workshop, I find it hard to really stop and take notes. That's why the checklist works best for me. I can quickly indicate each child's understanding of the skills. When conferring in reading and writing workshop, I can take notes as I listen to them read or talk with individuals about their reading or writing, but in math workshop, I teach students in small groups with 7 other kids. Stopping to take notes during or between rotations would really interrupt my teaching. When I correct journal pages, I do keep track of students' performance. If a student is really struggling with a concept, I will make an extra note of that so that my teaching partner is aware of my observation.


Hi Beth, Our school uses Everyday Math, and I teach third grade-and have been pondering small group rotations when I came across this blog-it is great! Just what I was wondering about! Quick question, in the small 5-8 minute intro, would you do an example of,let's say, lattice multiplication-or would you expect your high group to be able to solve that problem using their own method-or would you quickly teach the process and then expect the high group to catch on? Its the one piece (having the high group complete the journal pages before working with the teacher) that I'm confused about :)

Thanks for all you share!


You will definitely have to determine what will work best for your class when beginning to try out the math workshop approach. We are still tweaking things all the time! However, I tried to answer your questions in the best way I could.

You asked if we teach a whole-class mini-lesson before beginning rotations if the concept is completely new. We always give a little overview before the students begin the rotations, but it is not as long or as in-depth as our mini-lessons in reading and writing workshops. On some days the whole-class overview will be longer than others, especially if it is a completely new concept. It really depends on the lesson. If the lesson is one that we think the high (and sometimes even medium) group will be able to understand with very little instruction, we then tend to get right to our rotations so that we have more time to spend teaching the concept to the low group and doing an enrichment lesson with the high group. In a sense, each of the three groups gets a mini-lesson each day during the "work with teacher" rotation (modeling, active engagement/practice), and then the independent work station is like IDR time in reading workshop.

However, it may be different in 2nd grade. One advantage we have in third grade is that the students have a student reference book (SRB). This book provides titorials and gives examples of all math concepts learned in 3rd grade. When the high group begins their first rotation by trying to complete the journal pages independently, there are reference book pages that they can refer to if they need help. Third graders (especially those who are typically in the high group) can read the pages on their own and often figure out the new concepts fairly quickly with this helpful resource. If your high group is really gifted, many of them will not even need to use the SRB to understand the journal pages on many days. Of course they will show their completed journal pages to you when they come to the "Meet with Teacher" rotation, so if they did poorly on the journal pages, you will teach them the lesson in the same way you taught it to the other groups without adding enrichment.

There are also times when we do not do rotations at all and spend the entire hour on a whole-class lesson. There are certain skills taught in 3rd grade like double-digit multiplication that we know will be new to all students and will require lots of instruction and practice. On these days, we want all students to spend the entire hour working on the new skill.

You also asked about the games the students play. Like you mentioned, we often have them play games related to concepts that have been taught in previous lessons. The games serve as extra practice and review/reinforcement of the skills they are learning in the unit.

I hope I've answered your questions. Feel free to ask more if I'm not being clear!


Another quick question out of curiosity-what do your lesson plan (format) look like for your workshops or daily?

Do you include all groups mini lessons or general concepts?

Beth-you truly are an inspiration. I get such great ambition and spring board ideas from all the posts and your ideas.

As far as your assessment goes, besides the end of unit assessments, do you keep notes from your small groups like that of how you do during your reading workshop? Or just the Unit checklists?

Hi Beth!

I have been lurking on your website and posts here for a while and today I decided to give your math workshop a go and have a trial-run to see how I could incorporate it in my room next year. Things went great and my students loved it, because I was not the one standing and talking for half the time :). But it did get me thinking...

How do you handle the math workshop when you have to teach brand new concepts? I am thinking it might be harder for my students (2nd graders) to work independently in workbooks when we begin learning new concepts. The same thing happens with the game. Do you have students use a game from the previous lesson or from the day's lesson?

My colleagues and I were trying to play around with timing and whether we should have a short whole-group lesson to begin with or what, but I figured I'd come ask someone who experiences the workshop everyday!

Thanks for all your amazing ideas!


I am off today, and I actually have both boys down sleeping. I am finally able to catch up on lots of comments:)

You asked about how I start Math Workshop at the beginning of the year. I am at a real advantage because my teaching partner and I both work all day for the first week of school. This is great because one of us can teach the lesson at the "work with teacher" rotation, and the other one can really be managing the games group and checking in on the independent work group. Throughout the school year, we have parents who volunteer to help out at the games rotation. If you have a parent of a student in your class that you know well, you might even ask that parent to help out supervising the games group the first week while students become familiar with the routine and learn what is expected of them.

We also do lots of modeling before we actually begin the rotations. We explain exactly how math workshop will work and what is expected of the students at each rotation. We talk about what to do at a rotation if students need help so that they do not get in the habit of interrupting the group that is receiving instruction.

We also do small things to make the workshop run smoothly. We give a 2-minute warning toward the end of each rotation so that the game group can begin cleaning up. We then ring a little bell when it is time to rotate. Noise level is the hardest part to manage at the beginning of the year if students are not used to a math workshop. While I never ever thought I would use one of those stoplight noise monitors in my classroom, my teaching partner brought one to my room when we first started working together and suggested we put it near the game rotation so that students are actively monitoring their voice level (games can get noisy as students work together). It actually was a great thing to use for a few weeks. After students learned to play games quietly, we didn't even need to turn it on anymore.

Another suggestion at the beginning of the year is to keep the games fairly simple and uncomplicated. That way students can really learn to manage themselves and are not tempted to interrupt your lesson to ask questions.

In terms of management, I teach my small group lessons right in front of a bookshelf that holds containers of math supplies. This is nice because students do not need to bring things with them to the lesson. If the lesson calls for rulers, protractors, geometry templates, etc., I have those ready to use. Students do not need to waste time between rotations going back to their desks to get math materials.

I hope I am answering all of your questions! Let me know if you need more clarification!


Thanks for your quick responses to the posts from everyone. :-). How do you begin the school year for Math Workshop. Do you go through what each rotations would sound like/look like a few days then do trials with small groups?


I remember my first year using Everyday Math, and it was intimidating. It was so different from what I was used to, but I really ended up liking it by the end of that year. I have an even greater appreciation for it now that I use the different components of EM to do my math workshop. I think you will really enjoy doing math workshop with your students next year. Good luck!



You asked if we ever have a group that is a unit ahead or behind. Since I have started doing math workshop a couple of years ago with my teaching partner, we have not had that situation. However, I am sure there is a way for it to work if you find that your students are at very different levels in math. We do have students doing different lessons on different days because some groups move along quicker or slower in any given unit. Instead of having a group move on to the next unit, however, we will have them do more enrichment or complete collaborative projects while the other groups finish the unit instead of having them move ahead early to the next unit. That way the final test is given to all groups at the same time, and we all move on to a new unit together.

We do differentiate our math games on many days. You can read comment #45 for more information about your question on math games.

I hope I've helped!



You asked if our pre-tests are based on what we teach in the unit or the concepts on which we test the students. I guess the answer is both. We make sure that the concepts we assess on the final tests match up with the concepts we teach in class. You can read comment #47 to learn more about my pre-testing of students before each unit.

Thanks for posting your comments on the blog!!



Here are some answers to your questions.

1. You asked if we do a whole-class lesson before the math rotations begin each day. On some days we do, and on some days we do not. It depends on the lesson. If we think the concept will be completely new to all groups, we will spend time before the rotations giving a basic overview of the concept. If the lesson is one that we think the high (and sometimes even medium) group will be able to understand with very little instruction, we then tend to get right to our rotations so that we have more time to spend teaching the concept to the low group and doing an enrichment lesson with the high group. In a sense, each of the three groups gets a mini-lesson each day during the "work with teacher" rotation(modeling, active engagement/practice), and then the independent work station is like IDR time in reading workshop.

2. You also asked if we do daily math reflection or have the kids complete exit slips. We do not do exit slips because we are watching what they do right in front of us as we are teaching the lesson. We can see immediately which students understand the concepts and which ones do not. We also use the journal pages that they complete independently to see if they can do the work without the help of the teacher.

While we do not necessarily do a "daily math reflection," students do complete the "Writing/Reasoning" section of the math lesson on many days. All students have lined paper in their math folders and do their writing on those pages.

3. You also asked about pre-testing. Many of our pre-tests for the beginning of the units are parts of EM tests pieced together. We did start using the assessment creator tool and MS Word to create some pre-tests for other units. However, by the end of the year, it becomes very clear which students need to be challenged or given extra help. The math groups tend to change throughout the year based on how students are doing in class. In other words, the pre-tests become less important, and we begin using our in-class observations to determine our groups rather than pre-testing the kids before every unit. There were even times when a student may have done well on a pre-test, but his or her work ethic and motivation level kept us from putting him or her in the high group.

4. You also asked how many days prior to the unit do we give the pre-test. Since, at this point, we already have many remedial and enrichment materials gathered or created for each unit, we typically give the pretest just a day or two before we start the new unit (if we give a pretest at all).

I hope my answers to your questions are helpful.



Since you have a very low class, you would probably just have one average group and two remedial groups. It is okay to have two groups doing the same thing. That way you still have small groups that can receive more of your individual attention during the "work with teacher" rotation.



You asked if we differentiate our math games. The answer is yes, when possible. Many of the Everyday Math games do have different "levels" of difficult, so our high group will often play the more challenging version. We also ask the high group to play with the double-digit cards for certain games to make the game more appropriate for them.

When we make our own games, we make different versions of the same games, both remedial (if necessary) and more challenging (if necessary). When we have purchased games, we also have often bought both the K-2 version and the 3-5 version since third graders often fall into both of those categories. For example, we have "telling time" board games. One game asks students to tell time in 5-minute intervals and the other asks students to tell time to the nearest minute.

We switch games nearly everyday, but we will have students play the same game more than one time during a unit.

Students are not allowed to interrupt the teacher while we are with the group we are instructing. At the beginning of the school year, we spend time talking about what students can do if they are stuck on a math journal page (quietly ask a classmate at that same rotation) or if they are confused about how to play a game.

Good luck with your own math workshop!


Dear Beth,

Thank you so much for your detailed explanations and pictures showing how you make things work in your classroom.

This past year was my 1st year to teach EM, and it was intimidating at first. I LOVE your idea of the rotations. I had such a diverse group of learners and could not figure out how to challenge those higher level thinkers and catch up my remedial students. I had thought of centers but had no idea how to implement it in the most effective way.

I simply love this idea of rotations and how each student gets to do games.

Thanks for all you do! I'm starting to prep my class for next year tomorrow....

Thanks for the inspiration!

Beth- I am so glad I found your blog! This is just the sort of thing I was hoping to implement next year. I also use Everyday Math and been fustrated by the whole-class lesson approach. Do you ever have a group that might be a unit ahead or perhaps a unit behind? I was also wondering how you differentiate games for your students. Do your higher level students play games from different units? Thank you for all you do! - Karen

Hi Beth! This is exactly what I wanted to do next year! We also use Everyday Math. I'm wondering if your pretests are based on what is taught in the unit or what is tested on the final assessment? Thank you for your time! Amy

Beth- Thanks so much for responding to all posts. Everyone's feedback is so helpful.

Do you and your teaching partner do any kind of daily math reflection with your students? LIke an exit slip to share what they have learned?

Do you do a whole group mini lesson or just go straight into the workshop rotation?

I too find myself tweaking the math assessments each year. I often end up remaking many of them. Or making leveled ones depending on the students.

Ones that you have created in MS would you be willing to share? I'd be happy to share ones that I have created for the end of unit assessment, but I really like the pre-test option to help form groups for each unit. Perhaps that will be my summer project. QUestion though with the grouping---When you determine your groups based on the assessment are they group by what % (grade) they received on the test or by what skills/concepts they need to master still? Also how many days in advance do you give the pretest to allow yourselves time to prepare for the upcoming unit?

Sorry for all the questions-math workshop is just something I would really love to implement next year since I wanted to do it this year and just couldn't format it to a way that fit just right.

As always, I have a million ideas for my own classroom after reading your post! I would love to implement a Math Workshop in my 3rd grade next year, using your model as a starting point. However, I am not sure about how I can group my students effectively. I teach in the lowest-performing school in my county, and of the 18 kids in my current 3rd grade class, 8 did not pass the state math exam. Our rising 3rd graders' scores were even lower, which leads me to believe that for most units, I will have a small on-level group and a large remedial group. Any suggestions for what will basically be whole-class remediation? Thanks!

Hi, Beth! I love reading your ideas! They really inspire me to think outside of the box! I have been wanting to do math rotations and I was thrilled to read how you use them in your class. I have a couple of questions if you don't mind. 1.How often do you swtich your math games? 2. Are they differentiated as well? 3. What is your "rule" for students needing help from you when you are meeing with a group? Thank you so much for everything!!


You asked if I use Mental Math and Math Reflexes. It totally depends on the lesson and the group that I am teaching. On some days I choose to use it, and on some I do not.

In my post, you can also read about "Math on the Water." Students are required to do a great deal of mental math during these student-taught lessons, so this often takes the place of the mental math in the main lesson.

Thanks for posting your comments!



It is definitely frustrating when students miss days in our classroom. I feel like we do so much each day that it is easy for a student to get behind. The main way to keep students on track even when they miss days is our assessment checklists. In reading, writing, and math workshops, we are informally evaluating our students all the time. We rarely teach a skill and do not return to it at some point throughout the unit. That way even if a student misses a lesson, we can reassess their understanding of the concept when it is addressed on another day (before they take the final test). We also ask students to still complete any journal pages that they miss when they are absent. We will look those over when they are completed and make sure to find a time to meet with those students if we see that they do not understand the lesson they missed. We may also move a student from the "medium" group to the "low" group in math for a few days if they miss so many days that they need extra practice with basic concepts in the unit. In reading and writing workshops, we often use our individual conferences to quickly catch students up on mini-lessons they may have missed.

You also asked about our special schedule (gym, Spanish, art, and music). They are at different times and lengths each day. We just plan our schedule around those special classes. That means our prep time is different each day. My teaching partner and I made sure that we both have an equal amount of prep time on the days that we teach.

I hope I've answered your questions!



You asked some great questions about Math Workshop.

First you asked about the pre-tests and final tests. My teaching partner and I have ended up creating our own tests for many of the unit tests in Everyday Math. We felt like the tests in the book did not include enough of each type of problem for us to always get a fair and accurate look at each child's understanding of the concepts. We have used the assessment creator software and even MS Word to create our unit tests. We still feel like we are tweaking them a bit each year. We also include a challenge section but give it only to those students in our "high" group since they have often been exposed to more challenging concepts throughout the unit.

The assessment checklist you see on my post is just our version of EDM's individual progress profile. We typically use the objectives listed in the book, but we may also add our own if we teach additional lessons or add more challenging concepts to a unit.

You also asked if we do rotations 5 days a week in the same order. We will sometimes switch up the order so that students do not always rotate exactly the same way. However, the rotation order is intended so that the low group gets the lesson first (followed immediately by independent practice), and we always want to have the "high" group go to the independent practice rotation before they work with the teacher so that we can see how well they were able to do the lesson independently. This way we know if they need to be challenged or not. If the lesson is one that covers completely new material that we think will be unfamiliar to all students in the class, then we may opt out of Math Workshop for a day and use the entire hour to teach a whole-class lesson. That way all students will have extra time to practice the new skill.

I hope I've answered your questions!



That is so exciting to hear that your students already love your Math Workshop after just one day of trying it out! Good luck as you continue to implement it next year with your new students. I'm glad my post was helpful to you!

Thank you so much for your information about the SMART Board resources you use and for the links to resources both on the Scholastic site and beyond. If you do decide to post the activities you have created, I would LOVE to check them out!

Here is a link to some more Scholastic White Board products in the Scholastic Teacher Store: http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SearchEndecaCmd

Keep in touch!


Here are the links to Jada's recommendations for Scholastic's math practice center books.

1. Extra Practice Math Centers: Addition, Subtraction, and More


2. Extra Practice Math Centers: Multiplication, Division, and More


They look great! Thanks Jada!


Beth - I LOVE reading all your posts! I am implementing the workshop concept next year, when I move from 2nd to 3rd grade. We use Everyday Math in my district, my question is do you use the mental math and reflexes? If so, when do you fit that in? Thanks for all your ideas! :)Amy


I cannot tell you how much you inspire me! I was curious to know what you do with your students when they are absent and miss a math lesson, as well as your other subjects. I was also looking at your website and noticed that you have your enhancements at different times and different lengths. Does this mean that your prep time changes every day? If so, how does that work contractionally?

Beth- Using parts of final assessment as pre-test and/or using the Assessment CD is a simple enough idea :-). Do you just recreate a final assessment then? With your groups do you give them all the same end of unit assessment or do you vary that up too? I absolutely love your layout and it's exactly what I had in mind, but I was thinking of using MAP scores data to possibly determine my groups. Would you happen to have the Math Skills Checklist by unit too? Or are those just retyped versions of the Individual Profile pages.I have used EDM for years but I honestly don't use all parts of it, so I forget about them.

Do you do the same routine 5 days a week but just rotate the order in which they meet with you?

I was thinking 3 days of the rotations w/ teacher, 1 day of MAP Strand focus, and 1 day of 1/2 Math Extended Response & 1/2 Friday Flip (where we switch among all 3rd grade classes).

Thanks for being willing to share.

Hi Beth, I do not have a website to post and share my SMART board lessons and activities. Maybe that can be my summer project. :) I usually google a topic I am teaching for SB activities and lessons. Then I tailor them to fit my needs. I frequently use the Scholastic Interactive White Board activities. Two activities my students love are Scrapbooking and Story Starters. After reading a book, the students have fun "scrapbooking" the characters and they enjoy using their spelling words in story starters. Since I only have 4 computers in my classroom, we frequently visit the computer lab to allow the children to work on these activities, especially those that do not have Internet access at home.

If I am motivated enough this summer to collect my SB lessons and activities into one online source, you will be the first person to know. :)

FYI, today I tried your math workshop. I taught a topic that I knew the children would understand easily. This way they could focus on the new routine rather than trying something new with a challenging topic. They love it! Afterwards I asked them for feedback. They asked, "Can we do this every day for math?" There are 4 weeks left of school and I figured I would try it for the rest of the year to try and iron out any wrinkles before September. Thanks again for the wonderful ideas.

Here are some links to the Scholastic White Board activities: Scrapbooking http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/scrapbook/

Story Starter http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/storystarters/storystarter1.htm

Here is a link to my website through my district. In Kids’ Corner I have posted websites that my students love. I often assign them activities to help reinforce a skill or topic. http://nresnorthbellmore.sharpschool.com/classroom_teachers/fourth_grade/karen_buran/

Good luck next year with your SB. You will love it!

The books are called Extra Practice Math Centers: Addition, Subtraction, and More & Extra Practice Math Centers: Multiplication, Division, and More. The games and puzzles come in very handy! Have fun with your new Smart Board!


You asked if I have the math pre-test files we use to assess our students at the beginning of each unit. To be honest, we actually started the year using the final tests, then we literally cut, pasted, and copied certain parts of the final tests to use as the pretest, and we finally began using the assessment creator software for the later units. I am at home until next week but will find the files that I have saved at school when I return after Memorial Day.



Thanks for posting your comments! I am excited to hear that you are a SMART Board junkie. While I am familiar with Smart Boards enough to use them, I have not put much time into finding and creating activities since I have never had one in my classroom to use on a regular basis. Do you keep a website where you share your materials, or have you used any of the Smart Board lesson exchange websites?



Thanks for the math games website. Do you know the name of the Scholastic math books you use? I can add links to my post if you think they are worthwhile!

I'm glad my math workshop post helped you understand how it works. I actually worried I was getting into too much detail and would confuse teachers who were not familiar with this approach.




Isn't math workshop great! I agree that my students enjoy math so much more now, and I enjoy teaching it more than I ever have before!

My Smart Board will be installed this summer in my classroom, but I plan on ordering the Mountain Math online subscription soon so that I can become familiar with it before we start back to school in September. Perhaps I will add a Smart Board section to my website next year!


Beth, I have been really wanting to revamp my Math into a workshop format and your format. I use Everyday Math as well, would you be willing to share your pretest that you use for units to help you determine your groups?

Thanks for breaking down the math workshop in such a practical way...I wish this had been posted before I attended that expensive PD (that didn't really help!. I use games from a site called TeacherTreasures.com for math stations. The games are fantastic timesavers once you laminate them and cut them out. Mary also has a few math practice game books published by Scholastic that are worth checking out.

Hi Beth, I have been reading about your reading and writing workshops and have been preparing them for next year (I even put the binders on my "wishlist"). I am so happy that I found your blog on your math workshop as well. I, too, find the challenge of teaching math through whole class lessons. I usually start whole class then break down into smaller groups. But I always feel I run out of time. I am excited to try your math workshop.

I am a SMART board junkie and love creating and finding activities for my students. I read the other posts and find the Mt. Math really interesting. I am going to look into getting a subscription too.

Again, thank you so much for offering such a wealth of ideas and inspiration to the field of education. The teachers, and students, are truly lucky.


I have enjoyed reading your blog.

We changed to a Math Workshop model in January. Our students LOVE math and look forward to it each day.

Very interested in the Math Mountain. We are getting Smart boards next year and I'd really like to use this.

Thanks so much for all your wonderful ideas.


Those are great questions about "Math on the Water." Here are my answers to your questions:

1. You asked how I encourage shy and timid students to lead the class. First of all, my teaching partner and I spend the first month of school being "Captain Math." We really model exactly what it looks like for the students and give them lots of tips and pointers for being an effective "teacher." Since it is pretty much a "required" job, it is actually a great opportunity for those shy students to really face their fears and do something they wouldn't have chosen to do on had they not been assigned the job. It is amazing to see how, after just one day on the job, even our shy students rise to the occasion and become more comfortable speaking in front of their peers. Of course I also give them lots of encouragement before, during, and after their time as Captain Math.

2. You asked if we spend extra time with our "low" math students prepping them for their turn as Captain Math. During their first couple of times teaching we will offer them more support and make sure that their answers are correct before they teach. However, there are enough activities to choose from on the "Math on the Water" board that these students tend to choose easier concepts that they understand well, even if that makes the lesson a bit easier for their peers on that specific day.

3. Captain Math changes everyday. It is a paid job on our daily job rotation chart, so a new student is responsible for setting up the board and teaching the lesson each day. You can read my Classroom Economy post for more information about class jobs: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/01/class-economy.html

I hope I've answered your questions!


HI Beth,

I love your "captain Math" idea, but have a couple of questions regarding this concept. How do you encourage shy and timid students to lead the class? Do you spend extra time with your "low" students, prepping them for the leading math of the water? Do you have a new "Captain Math" everyday or is it the same captain all week?


I think you will love the math workshop approach to teaching math. I feel like such a better math teacher now that I use it because I know that I am truly teaching to my students' needs and ability levels. Good luck!



I used to do math just like you described (whole class lesson and journal pages followed by the game). However, I felt like the kids never had enough time to play the games to make them as worthwhile as they could be. I think you will really enjoy the Math Workshop approach! It will give you time to teach to your students' abilities, and the kids will really have quality time to play the games as they are intended to be played.




That would be AWESOME to have the Everyday Math journal pages for the SMART Board. I will send you an email.



I think I am going to purchase the year subscription to Mountain Math online so that I can check it out and become more familiar with it during the summer. I will let you know how I like it.

I'm glad you are enjoying The Print Shop software. I use it for so many things I do in my classroom!


I love this. I read about your rotation on your website earlier and I'm glad you made a post about it. I really want to implement this in my own classroom next year (I requested a transfer so I'm not sure what grade level I will be in yet). We use Everyday Math also and I think that for my children who are struggling with certain concepts, being able to group them and provide a bit more one-on-one help is going to make my math instruction so much more effective!

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