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Math Workstation Tasks

“Without effective Math Workstation tasks, successfully implementing Math Workshop is impossible.” (Sammons/Boucher, p 69)

And here we are in August! I’m sure your brain is buzzing with great ideas about how to implement or improve Guided Math Workshop! You can catch up by using the links in the Reading Schedule below. Jump in anytime!

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Reading schedule

Join the slow Twitter chat

Wow! So much great interaction on the Twitter chat. If you don’t have colleagues in your building who are implementing Guided Math, or coaches in your district or on your campus to assist with implementation, Twitter can be a great source of support and inspiration. Be sure to check it out!

To join in the slow Twitter chat, type the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM in the search box–look for the magnifying class in the top right hand corner by your profile picture (see the picture below). It is not case sensitive, but people often use upper and lower case letters for hashtags to make them easier to read. After you have searched on the hashtag once, it will be listed in your Recent Searches, so you won’t really need to type it again.

Once you are “in” the hashtag, click on Latest (top left hand corner–see picture below) to see all of the tweets, with the most recent listed first.

Scroll through to read what others have posted, reply to others, tweet your thoughts, or even pose your own questions. Remember to include the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM in your tweets and replies, or they won’t show up in the feed.

Chapter 5, Math Workstation Tasks

  1. What kinds of tasks are best for Math Workstations?
  2. How can I differentiate workstation tasks for my students?
  3. In what ways can I hold students accountable for their independent work on a Math Workstation task?

This chapter is a little different. Because there’s not really anything to read, you might feel inclined to just skip over it. I challenge you, however, to look carefully through the tasks and really analyze them. We included these tasks in the book, not only so you would have a collection of ready-made tasks to use, but also to serve as examples of effective Math Workstation tasks. It’s important that you carefully consider the structure and content of the sample tasks so you can develop a set of criteria to use as you look for additional workstation tasks to add to your collection.

Let’s first look at the types of tasks included in this collection. Using a structure such as GUIDE helps ensure that the tasks feature a good balance of skill practice, fact fluency practice, problem solving, and communication. To me, that’s a huge plus for using the GUIDE structure–you make sure you’re covering all your mathematical bases, so to speak. You also want to look for a balance between structured tasks and more open-ended, creative tasks.

So what do you look for when choosing tasks? Here are a few of my thoughts:

Tasks that can be reused. You would expect games to fall into that category, but look for independent activities that can be reused as well. Look, for example, at Piggy Bank Problems on page 91. Students draw 5 cards showing coin amounts and then find the value of the collection of coins. Great practice for an important skill. Contrast the mileage you can get out of the Piggy Bank task with a worksheet addressing the same skill, which would basically be one-and-done. Tasks that use random number generators, such as cards, dice, or dominoes, increase re-usability.

Tasks that can be easily extended. Look next at This Reminds Me Of… on page 112. We’ve including nine different mathematical models (pages 222 and 223) to use with this task, but you could easily extend the life of the task by finding additional pictures of models from your textbook or old tests.

Materials that can pull double duty. I love tasks that include cards, like Area and Perimeter War on page 76. I can think of lots of uses for those cards! For example: Choose a card. On graph paper, create another figure with the same area (or perimeter) as the figure on the card. Or, how about: Choose a card. Decompose the figure into 2 or more rectangles. Find the area of each smaller rectangle. Combine the areas of the smaller rectangles to find the area of the figure.

What about differentiation? Each of the tasks in the book includes suggestions for both above- and below-level learners. For below-level learners, it’s important to think about the supports they will need to be successful with the task. They might need additional materials–manipulatives, reference charts, etc.– or you might use smaller numbers or simpler versions of a task. Remember that above-level learners don’t just need more of the same thing. Spend a few minutes looking at just the differentiation notes for each task in the book and think about how you might use some of the ideas from the examples to differentiate tasks you are currently using.

As mentioned previously, it’s important for students to be independent learners during Math Workshop. Be sure you are providing students with the support they need to be successful and independent with tasks. I have three little words that I believe sum up the most powerful way to ensure student success with workstation tasks: model, model, model! Use the tasks for small group instruction prior to putting them in workstations. This not only allows you to introduce each task and guide students through the directions, but it also serves as a formative assessment and can help you determine what level of support each student will need for success or extension. For each of the tasks in the book, we have included Student Task cards and Talking Points cards. These are additional tools for fostering student independence. The Student Task cards remind students of the directions for each task, while the Talking Points cards set the expectations for mathematical communications. As you find additional tasks to use in your workstations, you can easily create your own Talking Points cards on large index cards, using the samples in the book as a guide.

Now would be a good time to look through some of your existing resources and determine what adjustments you might need to make to use them as workstation tasks. As you plan to kick off Guided Math at the beginning of the school year, use the teachers from the previous grade level as a resource. Using workstation tasks your students are familiar with from last year is a great way to review important skills while you teach the expectations for Math Workshop.

Be sure to add your comments or questions below!

Here are the slow Twitter chat questions I will post this week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Just search on the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM throughout the week to see the questions, read comments, and add your responses. We will use the Q and A format. For example, to respond to Q10, start your response with A10. Don’t forget to add the hashtag #GMWorkshopTCM to your tweet and all replies to tweets. If you don’t, it won’t show up in the feed for the chat.

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  1. Do you have a blank copy of the student task card template? I love the idea of reminding students of directions to foster their independence during workstations and would like to create my own!

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