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Minds on Mathematics (eBook)

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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Full Description

“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.


1. Minds on Math Workshop
2. Tools
3. Tasks
4. Community
5. Discourse
6. Opening
7. Minilessons
8. Work Time
9. Conferring
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 Math 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, 2/e

"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

"Are you tired of presenting and explaining every little thing over and over again; tired of taking the pencil out of a student’s hand to show him how to do the problem procedurally?  In a minds-on math workshop, a teacher is committed to apprenticing students in the thinking required to complete a task, rather than offering a procedure to follow. Wendy Hoffer has written one of the best books I have ever read on how teachers, especially middle school teachers, can redesign their math classes into a math workshop. One of the great PEBC coaches, she brings an abundance of experience and very practical suggestions on:

  • developing students’ mathematical thinking by modeling how mathematicians think, opening the “black box” of how they use content knowledge.
  • stimulating students’ math talk, discourse that reveals and clarifies students’ mathematical thinking--perhaps they most critical difference TIMSS researchers found between  high performing countries and the United States.
  • conferring  with students on their math problems, sitting with individuals or small groups of learners, listening in to what they may be thinking and wondering, then offering a targeted nudge towards deeper mathematical understanding.
  • creating the culture of a learning community that provides intellectual safety and collaboration while fostering deep mathematical understanding.

Do you want student independence but don’t know how to scaffold it?  Have your students grown accustomed to teachers holding their hands or rescuing them from struggle? Are you ready to shift from pursuing content coverage to seeking student understanding?Ready to prioritize time for student thinking? If so, then Wendy Hoffer offers you very practical and specific ways to become the math teacher you always wanted to be."

Arthur Hyde, author of Comprehending Math, Understanding Middle School Math, and coauthor of Best Practice, 4/e