Math Workshop Model: 5 Ways it Changed My Instruction

by Jennifer Lempp, April 17th, 2018

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Math Workshop: Five Steps to Implementing Guided Math, Learning Stations, Reflection, and More is finally out, and I couldn’t be happier!  I’m not sure if anyone ever sets out with aspirations to write a book.  I know that wasn’t the case for me.  I started out simply wanting to support teachers.  For me, math workshop was a method of instruction that was not obvious in my early years of teaching.  I taught math the way that math instruction had been modeled for me, in what was a pretty standard traditional format. I replicated that traditional instruction by following worksheets and/or a textbook and modeling for students in a stand-and-deliver style.

While math workshop was not obvious in my early years, something else was… I wasn’t doing what was best for students.  I didn’t feel that I was making math enjoyable, and I knew that many of my students were not experiencing success.  As a result, I was not enjoying teaching math and did not feel successful as a teacher.  Something needed to change.  I started to examine the content where I did feel successful, and I realized that my best classes were those in which I used a workshop model for both reading and writing.  I started to make small changes to my math block.  Slowly it started to resemble more of a workshop model.  Of course, back then, I didn’t call it math workshop.  That came later as I tried to communicate my instructional techniques to others.

5 things I noticed immediately after switching to a math workshop model:  

  1. Kids who thought they weren’t good at math started to participate in class.
  2. Kids who hated math (like REALLY hated it) started to participate in class and even smile every now and then.
  3. I was able to identify the students who understood the concepts and those that still needed more time.
  4. I had the time in the class period to address all students – those that already knew the grade level concepts, those that were still working on them, and those that had gaps to fill before we could broach the topics.
  5. I started to feel like a successful teacher of mathematics and saw the difference it was making in my students.

And, that’s really how it all started.  Once we know better, we do better.  Math workshop became the way of being for me, and I knew that I could never go back.  As time went on and I worked with teachers to implement math workshop, I realized that this method was working with all students, not just mine.  It was working at all grade levels, too!  With so few resources out there (at the time), I knew I needed to write about this.  Combining my passion for math and my love of reading and writing seemed to come naturally for me, and I began writing about my experiences in the classroom with math workshop. Before I knew it, I had a book on my hands. It sounds easier than it was—it took years to put together.  But, it was worth it.  In fact, if just one teacher reads this book and makes a shift in their instruction, I know it was worth every hour of writing.

I guess the same can be said about this blog. This is the first of many blog posts I will write about math workshop. Honestly, I’m a little nervous about it. I’m also very excited about the possibility of supporting teachers as they start down the path of math workshop or work to refine their workshop practices. I’m hoping to use questions and comments from readers to drive the discussion as we move forward on our math workshop journey together. So, bear with me as I navigate the blog world. I hope we can all learn together.


Interested in learning more about Math Workshop and meeting Jennifer Lempp at NCSM and NCTM April 22-26th? See our complete line-up of thought leader events and presentations here. Read more of Jennifer Lempp’s posts on Math Workshop here.


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