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Minds on Mathematics

Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8

Learn how to use the workshop model in your math classroom to provide learning experiences that inspire students to understand mathematics like never before. Discover how to support students to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and clear mathematical communicators.

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“Here, at last, is a book for teachers who have understood and implemented readers’ and writers’ workshops, but have struggled to create a manageable math workshop.” —Ellin Oliver Keene

Why is it that so many of our students don’t get math? Wendy Ward Hoffer argues that all learners are capable of deep understanding—but first we must create classrooms where teachers serve as coaches, students engage as a community of learners, and everybody works toward “getting it” together. Minds on Mathematics shows you how.

Wendy explains the core elements of math workshop and then provides detailed strategies for implementing the workshop model.  Effective routines and abundant examples are provided for each component of the workshop, including

  • planning openers that “hook” learners with engaging tasks
  • using minilessons to model thinking and problem solving
  • managing work time for both group and independent learning
  • creating classroom routines that support conferring
  • ensuring deep understanding with sharing and reflecting opportunities.

Minds on Mathematics shows how to make the workshop model come to life in your math classroom! It proves that when we provide math learning experiences that support students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers, to stretch and think in new ways, and then invite them to communicate their ideas to others, we inspire them to “get” math like never before.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)




Chapter 1 Minds-on Math Workshop

Chapter 2 Tools

Chapter 3 Tasks

Chapter 4 Community

Chapter 5 Discourse

Chapter 6 Opening

Chapter 7 Minilessons

Chapter 8 Work Time

Chapter 9 Conferring

Chapter 10 Sharing and Reflection


Appendix A: Thinking Strategies for Mathematicians

Appendix B: Resources




“Here, at last, is a book for teachers who have understood and implemented readers’ and writers’ workshops, but have struggled to create a manageable math workshop.  Minds On Mathematics is also a book for teachers who have never heard of a workshop structure, but understand that math learning should be authentic, engaging and strategic.  Wendy helps us rethink even the most stubbornly fixed notions of how we use time in math classrooms showing us that in-depth focus on fewer problems will yield greater understanding.  The beauty of this book is in Wendy’s clear, concise and practical descriptions of how any math class can become a math workshop."

Ellin Oliver Keene, coauthor of Mosaic of Thought

“Wendy Hoffer has written one of the best books I have ever read on how teachers can redesign their math classes into a math workshop.”

Arthur Hyde, author of Comprehending Problem Solving and coauthor of Best Practice

“Finally! A text that reaches out to teachers who teach math and invites them to create a classroom of math talk, understanding, and community in ways that foster conceptual math knowledge, student achievement, and collaboration.  Wendy Ward Hoffer has written the text I was always searching for as a teacher educator: a text that lays out a framework for and a path for putting into practice pedagogical content knowledge in math.  I believe that this text is critical to the development of our nation’s teachers in moving our K-12 students’ math achievement forward.”

Karen Lowenstein, Ph.D., Consultant for the Colorado Department of Education

“Hooray! Hooray! for Wendy Hoffer's mathematical brain candy of a book!  She offers a compelling vision, and an inspiring, practical model of mathematical learning based on the central premise that we can prevent mathematicians from being trapped on the surface by asking them to create, problem solve, negotiate, and communicate within the familiar, powerful structure of the apprenticeship model of workshop. Wendy takes all that we know about powerful workshop instruction and shows us what it looks like explicitly in the math classroom.  In each chapter she shows how students can ‘sink their teeth into the marrow of math’ by tackling worthy mathematical tasks and answering the questions Why are we doing this? What does this number or concept or equation really mean? As students seek to make meaning of big mathematical ideas, they begin to master the skills of collaboration, perseverance and communication so important for success in our world.”

Samantha Bennett, author of That Workshop Book

“This book’s strength is its framework for immediate implementation…It is a clear road map that honestly lays out criteria needed to instill and sustain a classroom that uses the workshop model where student engagement is high but consistency in implementation is challenging.”

Rebecca Murry, Teaching Children Mathematics

 “I highly recommend this book for practitioners of mathematics in the middle grades. I think it would also work particularly well as a book club offering for math teachers who are making the shift from a more traditional math classroom to an investigative math classroom.”

Amy Withers, Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School