Tackling Math Workshop

by becky on December 30, 2012

Hello Blog land! It’s good to be back. I know everyone in education is really feeling the pressure this year and I’m sure many, if not most, of you can relate to feeling beyond overwhelmed 24/7. That’s been me for the past few months. Actually, that’s been me since the first day of school. I wish I had been a better blogger the past few holidays because I had some really cute ideas to share, but I guess they will just wait until next year. :)

But, for today, I wanted to share my experiences with Math Workshop. I have actually attempted this in the past, and even though my students loved it, I couldn’t keep up with the copying, change of activities, and constant grading that was involved. I was attempting this at a time when my district was beginning to implement Guided Reading. Needless to say, I couldn’t put my all into both right at the start. Unfortunately, Math took the backseat. Until this year. I really knew I had to somehow incorporate small group instruction with this current class because when my team and I sat down with the third grade teachers last spring, one subject kept popping up: Math. Oy! Additionally, my district was/is implementing a new math series-My Math. I knew this year was going to be a doozy! So, over the summer, I started searching the web for Guided Math/Math Workshop ideas. I found some, but nothing I felt like I could jump into since I didn’t know my class yet, and I wasn’t sure what the math series was going to be like. I mean, yes, math is math, but I wanted to see the scope and sequence of the series, and I also needed to organize my materials. That’s when I found my starting place. I found and read and reread this amazing post from Clutter Free Classroom and decided that I would set up my workshop using the Acronym “MATH”.  M- Math Facts, A-At your Seat, T-Teacher’s Choice, and H-Hands on. Here is a picture of the Clutter-Free Board…

Here is my version of the MATH board I use in my classroom. I have to apologize about the quality of the picture… I forgot my real camera at home. All the pictures below are taken from my cell phone-doh!

On my board, I have made 4 large dots with the letters M-A-T-H on them. Underneath them, I stapled dry erase pages that list the activities they will complete during each station. It is so easy to just wipe off the activities each day. This was another golden suggestion from Clutter-Free Classroom.  Under T-Teacher’s Choice, I include the materials they need to bring with to their small group instruction. Before we begin Math Workshop, I have each group walk over to the board and look over their “schedule” and if they have any questions that pop up, they have my attention to ask them. Otherwise, once time starts, they cannot interrupt me unless they are vomiting, bleeding, or they lost a finger. If none of those things are happening, they have to use their resources to solve their problems. So far, no fingers have been lost. Can’t say the same about the vomiting, but what would teaching be without stomach acid on the 32 year old carpet, lol.

When it came to starting I thought the best and least overwhelming way to begin setting this up would be to take an inventory of the supplies I already had to see how I can use them in my math centers. I do have to say, I have a pretty nice collection of intermediate leveled math supplements I’ve purchased myself over the years.  Here are some pictorial examples of what I decided my “staples” would be for my H-Hands on section.

Versa-tiles. Um, hello, BEST resource in the educational world. I learned about these when I worked at Sylvan Learning Centers the summer before my first teaching job. Then, I remembered a box I had saved from a classmate’s dump pile she had made when she was moving classrooms. I had saved this 1978 box from being recycled and I’m SOOO glad I did. Yes, the pages are a bit old, and yes there’s a slight scent of old, but hey, math is math, and I didn’t have to make a single copy. Plus, there were 6 copies of each of the 9 topics and they were all appropriate for my 4th graders. Score!

Want to know the absolute BEST part of using versa-tiles? Kids LOVE them and they get immediate feedback when they self-assess their tiles. I don’t check their tiles every time but when I know certain students are struggling, I write them a note to show me their tiles before they flip check their answers. Since these are pricey I spend a fair amount of time teaching the students how to set up their boards, get them ready for the next student, and how to make sure they are closed completely. Luckily, they like using them so much they are willing to be extra careful.

Math Games. This is where my creative drive has really come in handy. Since I started blogging and selling at Teachers Pay Teachers, I have obviously used those materials in my classroom. All I did was reorganize my games into separate tubs and reorganized my dice and “markers”. Easy Peasy. Some examples of the math games students are seen playing during Math Workshop are:

Knock it Off-Multiplication

Practicing Place Value

Masters of Division

Let’s Practice Mean, Median, and Mode with Harry Potter

Fun with Fractions and Decimals

And my most recent addition to my store

We’re Off to Find the Product (Wizard of Oz themed)

They LOVE these games and are always excited when I tell them I’m working on a new one.

In addition to the math games I have made, I also pulled out and reorganized the math games I received when I piloted SRA Math about 7 years ago. I didn’t realize at the time what a goldmine I had, but these games are UH-Mazing, and incredibly beneficial. Here are some of my Goobers playing one of the multiplication games.

Additionally, I was contacted by a sweet representative from Lakeshore Learning asking if I was interested in doing a review on a math game from Lakeshore Learning. I chose “Allowance”. In a nutshell, here is how it works: Wash the car and earn $1.30, but forget your homework and lose a turn! In this fast-paced game, players race around the colorful board doing chores and collecting an allowance, then spend their earnings on the things they want.

At first I was worried it would be too easy for my students to play, but after sitting down and playing with my students, I really like this game. It’s perfect for practicing addition and subtraction, but even better… it’s 100% grade level appropriate for adding and subtracting decimals. The best part, every time there is indoor recess, my students ask if they can play Allowance. Um, let me think… of course!

If you are interested in purchasing this game or one of the MANY reading and/or math games, click here and start shopping!

So, that pretty much covers the H-Hands on part of my math board… Now, let’s move onto M-Math Facts.

I know I’ve blogged about this before, but I love using XtraMath for students to practice their basic facts. It’s free, differentiated, and completely student led. I honestly do nothing with this program besides updating individual programs when students finish and printing out certificates.  This particular group of students needs all the help they can get with their facts. Why does this keep happening??? It’s so hard to teach long division, fractions, and double digit multiplication when the students aren’t fluent. I wish there was a magic wand. Until then, during this part of the workshop, students will work on several activities.

#1-XtraMath-I’m lucky enough to have two student desktops in my classroom. Students know that when it’s their group’s turn for Math Facts, they take turns at the computer. Since rotations are between 12-15 minutes, we have no problem getting through 4-5 students during each rotation. Occasionally, we run into not all students getting their turn. I then tell them, they will complete during Homework time.

#2- Multiplication and/or division packets. Several years ago, I purchased multiplication and division workbooks that practice each fact on several pages. I have organized them into 4 separate packets and as they finish one, they get a new one until they finish all 4 packets. Then, I have skill based packets for them to work on. Luckily this is the majority of the copies I make for math for the whole year. It is drill and kill, but in my opinion, it’s not hurting them and any practice is good for them.

#3 Flash Card practice. Sometimes I know students need more interaction so I tell them that for today they will practice flash cards with 1-2 partners. This is a perfect opportunity for me to differentiate. A lot of my students are working on subtracting because that is hands down, the weakest fact in my room.

Now, it’s time to talk A-At your Seat. In the past, this was my least favorite part of the planning. I overwhelmed myself by constantly making copies for all levels of learning. Although I do know that differentiated independent work is incredibly effective, I also do not want to kill my number count on pages that I can’t guarantee students are putting their full effort into. Plus, I’d always feel guilty if I didn’t grade them. I’d end up spending my nights grading the independent work, get aggravated that they weren’t “getting” it, and then spend my plan time finding more papers for them to complete. It was such a waste of time, paper, and energy. This year, things are MUCH easier. I focus my plan time on using the formative assessment I gain during my small group instruction to differentiate the lessons for the next day’s workshop. I’m also lucky in that this year my district purchased consumable student workbooks. That means I hardly ever make copies. Since there are about 4 pages for every lesson, and I usually only use the homework page with my class, I am able to have students complete the Independent Practice page in their workbooks from the lesson the day before. This was the key. I kept trying to have students independently complete activities from the current day’s lesson. But, duh, what about the groups that see me last. Are they supposed to be mind readers? Big light bulb for me. This way, when they work, they have their notes from the day before and they have already completed a homework assignment of the topic. The independent practice is a review. Yay!

Mountain Math-Since it usually only takes my students about 8-10 minutes to complete their Independent Practice, they “know” that when they finish, they are to work on Morning Math aka Mountain Math. The expectation is that they complete all 24 questions by the end of the week. This part is still a work in progress since I haven’t introduced all the topics of Morning Math to them, but overall, students are doing a great job of completing their work. Have you ever used Mountain Math? I have used it religiously in the past, but for the past two school years, it sadly sat in a bin collecting dust. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this program because it’s to the point and effective. I used to hang the questions on a clear pocket chart seen below…

Unfortunately, I could never find a good “home” for the pocket chart where students could see and work near it. So, one of my new purchases of the school year was the tabletop center version found here.  I like it so much better for several reasons. There is no more set up necessary. All I have to do is flip the page. Plus, when I used the pocket chart, I’d only be able to fit 1/2 the questions at a time. Now, students can work at their own pace and not have to wait for me to switch out the cards. It’s so much easier to manage. Maybe one day I’ll invest in the digital version for the SMART boards. I don’t have one in my classroom yet, so I’ll just use the tabletop version. I’m personally content. I think the Goobers are also. :)

Finally, let’s talk T-Teacher’s Choice. By far, this is the easiest to explain. You may have noticed at the beginning of this novel I call a blog post, that my MATH board has sticky notes on each group circle. I could also use a dry erase marker, but I like the way I can pull the groups off and not have to take the circles down to change. It’s a time thing. My groups change after each chapter. I have my students take a pretest before each chapter and based on how they score, I set my groups. Just like with Guided Reading, I have a few high, a few low, and mostly average ability groups. I have a total of 4 groups and 22 students. The size of each group varies from chapter to chapter.

So, that is how I run Math Workshop in a nutshell. Wow, if you have read this long you deserve a prize. How about a freebie instead? If you are thinking about starting M-A-T-H Workshop in your classroom, then you’ll need to organize your plans. Click on the picture below and download a copy of my MATH Workshop planning sheet. I fill in each box with the activities and/or assignments I want students to complete during each day of Math Workshop. Enjoy!

Do you run a similar workshop in your classroom? What are your helpful hints? Do you have any tried and true suggestions?

Til next time!

Happy New Year!

 

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate December 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm

This was a wonderful post, Becky! Thank you for being so detailed! I have been wanting to try math workshop for two years, but have been very overwhelmed by the extra planing it would involve. I have a few questions for you :) Do you still do any whole group instruction during math, or does the workshop take up your entire math block? How much time do you allow for your math block? I love the math workshop planning page you shared! Do you have the pieces you used for your workshop board available for sale? Thanks again for the informative post!

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Becky December 31, 2012 at 1:38 am

Hi Kate! I’m so glad you found the post helpful. I think I now have carpel tunnel from it, lol. Now, about your questions… I have tried to only do Math Workshop M-F, but with some of the more technical topics I have to cover in 4th grade, it becomes too overwhelming to only see the kids for 15 minutes (at most) at a time. Therefore, I have adjusted my schedule to where I have two whole class math lessons a week and three math classes with Math Workshop. I push to finish in 60 minutes, but sometimes I dip into my literacy block for about 75 minutes. We are still working out the tweaks so I figure by June, I’ll have it down to 60 minutes flat… I hope. :) As for selling my board template, I don’t feel it’s ethical since I tweaked the idea I originally found on Clutter-Free Classroom. I do know that she sells her template so you can always purchase from there. I hope this helps and THANKS for taking the time to leave a comment!
Happy New Year!
Becky :)

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Kate December 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Thanks for your response! Your workshop schedule sounds great! I teach 2nd, so I could see myself having a 10-15 whole class lesson each day and then switching to workshop after that… and having longer whole class lessons to introduce new topics. Sorry, just thinking out loud! I totally understand not wanting to sell your template– just had to ask because yours fits my design scheme better! :D I hope you continue to write about math workshop so I can learn some more! Thanks again!

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Stephanie December 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Starting Math Workshop is my New Year’s resolution and this post is ah-ma-zing!!! Thank you for such detailed descriptions, pictures, and resources- you rock and I love love love this post :)

Many thanks!!

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Becky December 31, 2012 at 1:39 am

You are so sweet and very very very welcome! :)
Becky :)

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Kaitlyn December 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

This is a wonderful post! I read Guided Math over the summer and it inspired me to start math workshop in my room-but I do it with 3 ‘centers’ instead of 4 (I also have 15 kids, so it is a little easier to have smaller groups). The kids love it, and I feel much better about their math instruction. I love all the resources that you shared!

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Becky December 31, 2012 at 1:40 am

Hi Kaitlyn, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 15 students?!?! I’m super green-eyed jealous!
Happy New Year!
Becky :)

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Annie January 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Becky,

So I was excited when you posted how you run this because I had seen this on Clutterfree Classroom’s site and was intrigued. I also teach 4th and am wondering how you are able to get all of your content into 2 whole class sessions. I ran this by one of my teammates and she was like there is no way. For example we have to teach coordinate graphing in the first quadrant which includes line segments, rays, points, parallel, perpendicular, intersecting lines. Then we also have to teach angles (right, acute, obtuse) all in the matter of a week. Do you continue your lessons in Teacher’s Choice or is this just a time for work on things they are struggling on? Any advice you have as to how to make this work in 4th grade would be so helpful as I get back from break next Monday and would love to implement this if at all possible!

Thanks,
Annie

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Becky January 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Hi Annie, I just sent you an email. :)

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Heather January 24, 2013 at 12:44 am

Becky,
1) This post has been so helpful! I finally quit chickening out and dove into workshop head first 2 weeks ago. I have SOOO much to tweak, but I love it so far and so do my kiddos. I do feel rushed with my groups at times.
2) Annie’s post might as well have been written by me (just change it to say 3rd grade!). We’re on the same geometric skills right now and my head is swimming. Is there any way I could get you to email me your response? :)
3) Huge pat on the back to you for not wanting to sell your materials since it resembled Clutter-Free Classrooms. :) I’ve admired hers for a while, but have wanted to tweak some too to fit my scheme. I hope both you and her won’t mind.
4) Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing! Your carpal tunnel, at least for me, was greatly appreciated!!

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Becky January 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm

You got it!!! Email sent! :)

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Lianne February 18, 2013 at 1:07 am

Becky-
I’m a new-to-elementary teacher (I taught 7th grade before), and I’ve found it very challenging to implement math small groups in my classroom (not for lack of desire!). I teach 5th grade now.

This blog post has been so helpful because you were able to articulate some things that I had questions about but apparently didn’t know the words to say! You took them right out of my mouth! :)

Like these other teachers, I struggle with how to teach ALL the content within 2 days of whole group lessons. How do you get all of the objectives done and incorporate problem solving within 2 short days!? The mere thought to me is overwhelming, and the logistics of it all I think have scared me off a bit. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you thank you!

Twyla January 8, 2013 at 1:55 am

Thanks for sharing all of your great ideas. Just wondering what books you use to create your math packets? How big do you make them and how long does it take them to complete? Do you do a new packet for each week?

Thanks so much.

Twyla

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Sarah January 27, 2013 at 6:51 am

Thank you for this post!! My teammate had the same opinion as Annie’s. I’m at the point where I need a change and am ready to take the plunge, but there are multiple targets to teach in a week! Could you also send me the email? Thank you!!

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Becky January 28, 2013 at 3:01 am

Hi Sarah! I’m just going to post my email here. If you have ANY questions, just let me know. I do want to say, that there are some weeks where I can only get in one day of workshop. Sometimes with tests, multiple concepts, or just confusion will limit the amount of workshop days I can fit it. I know the ultimate goal is 5 days a week, but we all know that sometimes it’s just more worth your time to teach particular lessons whole group. That said, this is my original response to Annie :)

Becky

I hope I’m able to explain a little more about how I “fit it all in”. :) Basically, here was my response to Annie…

I hope I am able to answer your question and/or concerns about how I run my workshop. I’m assuming you are referring to how I answered Kate in how many days I do whole group and how many days I do workshop. Well, when I do whole group it is usually when there is a lot of explaining and/or notes to take. I have my students write the definitions and step by step examples in their notebooks. This is when I want everyone to hear the same exact message and have the same exact notes written down. Then, the next few days of workshop are where I continue teaching each set of students during Teacher’s Choice. I may differentiate how I teach each group, but each group will continue working on what they learned in whole group. Unless it’s my “high” group, then I may preteach the next topic because they already have a handle on it. Unlike Reader’s Workshop and/or Guided Reading where you work on students difficulties, I only focus on what we are learning in class during Teacher’s Choice. I don’t think I’d be able to “get through” and take assessments if I didn’t do it this way.

Does that make sense? I have only been doing this for a month so there is A LOT I am still figuring out as I go. And, I’m pretty sure that there will be weeks where I might not get to any workshop days. I only do it when I know they can handle the work independently. Otherwise they are frustrated and then I have behavior problems during the rotations.

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Ami April 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

jfhkDSGYIP EWT-

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Karen March 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

Thanks…this is fab…have used the workshop model with grade ones but moved school and coutries last year and am now teaching a combined 2/3 class. Somehow i let math workshop go out the window for the very reasons you mentioned. Am reinspired and have lots of great new ideas. Yay

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Ami April 16, 2013 at 10:56 pm

hi i love your advice i teach 4th grade and i really llllllllllloooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee your website thanks

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blair April 16, 2013 at 11:00 pm

thanks

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Kimberly May 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

I was wondering about the math packets your students work on. I was wondering how big each packet is and how long it takes your students to finish each packet. What do you with your high fliers who seem to blow through their packets and the mountain math? Do you limit them on how much they can do each day???

I am in love with this MATH workshop. It is my goal this summer to get it put together so I am ready come August!! Thank you for this post. I hope to see more posts about it.

Thank you
Kim

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Brandy Withers May 22, 2013 at 2:01 am

Hi there! LOVE your math board! My colleague and I are coteaching 1st grade next year and are wanting to do a math board. Do you sell the files for your board? I would love to have/buy a copy of it!

Thanks!
Brandy

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Staci July 15, 2013 at 1:34 am

I enjoyed reading your blog. Do you always start with your low group? Also do you try and see all groups in one day? I am struggling getting the schedule down and using all available time to be teaching students. Thanks so much.

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Jennifer July 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I love this!! Where did you find the dry erase paper that you use to list the activities your students do in each station??

Thanks!
Jennifer

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Rachel July 26, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Hello! I am also wondering where you got the workbooks from? They look like a great idea!

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JULIE August 1, 2013 at 4:42 am

I LOVE Versa-Tiles. I have a friend who loaned me enough sets for a small group. Mine are Language Arts tiles, and are very challenging, but fun! Your kit looks like my old ragged SRA kit that I hang onto year after year!! Works great! I had planned to do a post on how I use them in my LA rotations. I need to purchase my own kit, for sure. Maybe someday….

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Krista Reid August 6, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Hi!
I LOVED your post on math workshop. Such a simple, yet productive way to organize them. I’m going to try them this year when I’m teaching grade 6. I was just wondering if you sell the set for the board? The letters, group numbers etc.

Thanks,
Krista

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Alyssa J August 8, 2013 at 2:28 am

Wow! I have struggled with exactly how to run math workshop and last year was a total disaster. I hated teaching math and my students probably didn’t love it :( Your post was awesome and after my summer of slaving away and organizing all the common core aligned resources I could find, I now feel ready to launch MATH workshop. All the details you added were not lost on me. Thank you!!!

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Jennifer Wilson September 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Becky,

Do you have the actual MATH bulletin board labels for sale? I tried to look on your TPT account and couldn’t find them! I know you linked Clutter Free Room, but I did not see yours?

Thank you!!

Jenn

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Amy September 28, 2013 at 11:26 am

Hi,
I love this post and would love to try it with my Grade 1′s. I’m wondering how often you switch the activities? Every day?

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Amy October 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Hi,
I’m going to do this in my classroom, but I’m wondering where you got your awesome print outs for the MATH display board?

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Leigh October 11, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Love this! I am currently doing workshop in my room. I made a print out of our weekly activities, and posted our schedule on our board. It has been a rough 3 week as that is when I actually started implementing. I was trying to adapt it to our adopted math series. I give 5 problems in independent practice, a math journaling problem, a helping math (pairs) word problem, and they come to a small group session with me. Most have gotten accustomed to it, but so many are struggling to complete the work–mostly due to time on task from what I see. I’m trying to review 32 folders a day and going crazy! Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have already seen some changes on here I am going to make.

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Leigh October 11, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I’d like to know more about Mountain Math

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Kari Strater May 7, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Are you selling the math workshop board materials? I didn’t see them on your TPT site and I would love to have them. I only have a small board like you do so I want to keep it as simple as possible!
Thanks!
Kari

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Charlotte July 17, 2014 at 1:44 am

Becky, I found your post on Pinterest and I’m wondering if you had any updates/tweaks to add since this original post. I, too, teach 4th grade. This will be my second year and as we prepared for our state exam, we started something similar and saw progress. Our team talked about starting something like it (this) earlier on in the year and this seems like it would fit perfectly. I share the same concerns as a previous commenter about the whole group part of the lesson, to which you replied in an email. Could you address that, either here or in a private email? I appreciate any insight or issues you could help me side-step. Thank you again!

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