I experimented with the math workshop model earlier this week. The elements I focused on really made the learning effective. The elements I didn’t focus on ended up being missed opportunities.

Here’s a walk through on the topic of Writing Expressions and Equations.

Opening

I think I did OK on this.

Students started class by completing this tiered problem. Nearly every student was able to complete problem 1. Though I’ll talk about that one in more detail in a bit. Problems 2-4 were increasingly “challenging”.

Mini-lesson

I think I did OK on this, too.

The mini-lesson wasn’t a distinct lecture. It was a series based on “My Favorite No.” Students took a risk by putting their work under the document camera and we analyzed their thinking. One struggling student took a risk and showed his work for problem #1. He wrote n + 5 = 15.

“What words triggered you to write ‘equals 15’?” I asked.

Student: I don’t know.

“Do you see a 15?”

Student: No.

“Do you want to reconsider and erase the 15?”

Student: OK.

“What prompted you to include an equals sign?”

Student: I don’t know.

While this student is a young man of a few words, I do appreciate his risk taking.

What went well:

Each of the four problems and the”Favorite No” was woven into the mini lesson. When we approached problems 3 and 4  the mini-lesson turned into direct instruction. The use of coefficients with a variable instead of the multiplication symbol and using fraction bars to represent division were new concepts.

The missed opportunity:

I forgot to create an anchor chart with a list of words that are similar to: sum, difference, product, and quotient. That would have been helpful when the students worked on the following:

Work time

Students were paired to cut up and complete this puzzle. It was an excellent task. Students had to read and process many written expressions and try to match them by moving the squares around. They talked math and they collaborated. What I really liked about the task was that it proved students could be engaged in a problem that had nothing to do with the real world.

As they worked I conferred with each pair about three times over the course of the period before time ran out.

Sharing and Reflection

Students didn’t finish the puzzle so they taped what they had completed and we’ll finish up next week. That’s when I’ll recover from my anchor chart faux pas (or was it a fax pas, now I’m thinking this sequence is better). I’ll also want them to reflect on any strategies they used while completing the puzzle.