Math Workshops

When planning as a team, we often ask ourselves “Why does this matter?”. We want to make certain that the maths we are teaching our students is as relevant and purposeful as possible. This often leads to long debates about pizza fractions, “when would I possibly use this?” conversations and math standards we’d love to just ‘eat’.

What does math look like in Studio 5?

Currently we have two different methods of maths explicitly happening in Studio 5. Three out of the four teachers are leading workshops and unconferences throughout the week. One of our teachers is directly teaching math to his specific homeroom, one period a day, every day. However, those students are still welcome to attend workshops if/when it fits into their timetables.

These methods do not limit our students to choosing what works best for them because, in addition to these options available, there are students who choose to learn digitally, for example, using Khan Academy, Mathletics or Study Ladder. They may also decide to seek help 1:1 or small group from a teaching assistant, teacher or peer – we call them the ‘experts’. Those that don’t want to learn via the internet or in a group can choose to work independently using available resources at ISHCMC. These are just some different ways that students learn and grow in maths in Studio 5.

Graduated Increase of Independence (GII)

How do we know who needs what? The answer is simple, it comes down to a student’s self assessment on those particular standards in a unit. Students are given the standards – in kid friendly language – per unit and are asked to place them accordingly on the GII where they think they are with that standard. After placing themselves – students in Independent and Leading are then expected to ‘prove’ that they are there by demonstrating various ways of showing they’ve understood the standard. If they are unable to do this, they will shift their standard back down the GII, until they can successfully do this. Students who place themselves in Guided or Shared, will seek help in better understanding that topic with the help of their advisors guidance and their preference for learning math. Workshops are warmly encouraged at the start, just to get a foundation for the topic.  Students who mark themselves at ‘Leading’ can present their picture to our ‘expert’ board and offer to help other students learn that specific standard! 

Credit to Suzanne Kitto for the creation of the GII.


Workshop designs are being molded each week to fit the needs of our learners. While this requires a lot of extra work on our part, it’s been worthwhile. Depending on the unit, we may choose to tier our workshops based on level of conceptual understanding. For example: form-focus-causation. Other times we tend to go with a more direct plan for our workshops split by choosing concrete, pictorial or abstract workshops. Students are given week at a glance for workshops, so they can plan accordingly based on their individual needs. Each morning, students are welcome to sign up for that day’s workshops. Interestingly enough, our TAs have been tracking each math workshop to see who is attending regularly, rarely or not at all.

Photo Credit to Taryn Bond

Most recently, we’ve shifted Mondays to being ‘Figure it out’ days where we present materials and resources for students to get familiar with the upcoming standards, ask questions and begin to get an idea of what they know and what they need support with. Tuesday and Wednesday became workshop part 1 and part 2, followed with a repeat of the lessons Thursday and Friday. The purpose being, students could attend workshops without feeling as though they were missing out on opportunities to attend more than one workshop. In addition, there is also a ‘Challenge’ workshop for students who may already be in ‘Independent’ or ‘Leading’ – which also comes in two parts.



What if a student still doesn’t ‘master’ something? Up until this point, it’s been made clear that Studio 5 students have a variety of ways to learn their maths.  If they feel they still haven’t gotten a concept down, want extra practice or simply have some questions, we hold unconferences once a week in the three rooms to suit these needs.

Photo Credit to Taryn Bond


I can imagine what you are probably thinking – but how does it get tracked? That’s a great question and one we continue to work on every day. With students attending workshops, we take down the names of every student that attends a workshop. Our reporting system is with ‘Evaluations of Learning’ (EOLs). Students write these on their own using our templates (structured or unstructured), describing what they’ve learned in the math unit, based around the lines of inquiry, who they are as mathematicians and the ATL skills they’ve gained this unit. Some students are writing out their mathematical thinking and conceptual understanding, others are creating GIFS, pictures or videos to demonstrate their maths and inserting the links. The advisors are supporting the student throughout the process, with several check-ins. The advisors will then respond to the students EOL onto our marking system.


No matter how a student chooses to learn math in Studio 5, learning is in fact happening. That’s the beauty of the Studio 5 model, not one size fits all and we stay true to that, as best we can. No student should struggle to learn in a way that doesn’t suit for them.