Math Workshop: Making Word Problems Accessible!

Using word problems in math workshop

What is math workshop anyway?

“Math Workshop” can be a daunting concept…but please remember that math workshop doesn’t need to mean math ROTATIONS.  Math workshop can simply be a way for you to get students working on meaningful, “just right” math so you can be freed up to work with small groups or individuals as needed!  Whether you use a checklist, rotations, or a “must do”/”can do” list, there are tons of ways to get students working independently or cooperatively so you can meet with groups or 1:1.
So today’s “tip” for you is to help you keep students actively doing quality, meaningful math.  As you know, one thing that I do a LOT of in my classroom is problem-solving.  We do problems to warm up.  Problems if we finish early. Or problems alone.  Even problems in partners.
I like students to be able to have some choice in their problem-solving choices at times, so many years ago I started using small pocket charts to have problems hanging in my room at all times.  Sometimes these problems tie to my unit, sometimes they tie to another content area (ex. human body word problems), sometimes they are to review other concepts, sometimes they are seasonal, and sometimes I throw out a random assortment of problems to keep it interesting!  I can plan ahead and get word problems printed and ready to go so the prep work is SIMPLE.

Math differentiation

To help differentiate, I sometimes use a green, yellow, red coding system so students can self-select just the right problem type to try.  Green means “GO AHEAD!”…these problems should be accessible to everyone.  Yellow asks students to “SLOW DOWN” and read the problems first to see if they are a good fit.  Red means, “STOP!”  and try the other ones first before tackling them!  I don’t always “level” my problems…but sometimes it’s helpful when I want to make sure students are working at a just right level.
Another option is to print problems on different colored paper or to put them in separate charts.  Remember, what makes a problem “easy” for one student doesn’t necessarily mean it will be accessible for others, and that’s a great message to teach students as well.
using word problems in pocket charts

I use lots of different types of problems. These are actually some task cards I printed in black and white–most of which are review and challenge fraction problems.

Students can self-select differentiated word problems
Here is one of my mathematicians making his selection!
Solving word problems in math workshop
We glue these problems right into our math spirals and students are ready to roll!  It’s a great way to differentiate and have problems ready at all times.

I love being able to prepare ahead of time and know that my students will always have a meaningful activity to work on if they finish early.  It’s also great for math rotations or partner work.  You can make sure the problems are a “just right” level of challenge for everyone.  It’s also a GREAT way to have a ton of challenge work available for students who are self-starters or fast finishers.

Need More Word Problems?

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