Traditionally, small-group math instruction has been used as a format for reaching children who struggle to understand. Math coach Kassia Omohundro Wedekind uses small-group instruction as the centerpiece of her math workshop approach, engaging all students in rigorous “math exchanges.” The key characteristics of these mathematical conversations are that they are: 1) short, focused sessions that bring all mathematical minds together, 2) responsive to the needs of the specific group of mathematicians, and 3) designed for meaningful, guided reflection.
As in reading and writing workshop, students in Kassia’s math workshop are becoming self-directed and independent while participating in a classroom community of learners. Through the math exchanges, students focus on number sense and the big ideas of mathematics. Teachers guide the conversations with small groups of students, mediating talk and thinking as students share problem-solving strategies, discuss how math works, and move toward more effective and efficient approaches and greater mathematical understanding.
Although grounded in theory and research, Math Exchanges is written for practicing teachers and answers such questions as the following:
- How can I use a math workshop approach and follow a certain textbook or set of standards?
- How should I form small groups? and How often should I meet with small groups?
- What should I focus on in small groups?
- How can I tell if my groups are making progress?
- What do small-group math exchanges look like, sound like, and feel like?