Differentiating the Teaching of Mathematics
In classroom instruction, differentiation is vital to ensure students of all caliber levels can achieve mastery. In terms of mathematics, it often becomes difficult to identify useful ways to differentiate and scaffold. teachers need to assess each student’s proficiency level first and comprehend the areas of knowledge gaps to achieve useful differentiation. Once teachers identify the students that require differentiation, they need to identify language, activities, and modeling approaches that students can access. Flexible grouping and tiered instruction are two powerful differentiation strategies. Let’s understand these concepts and how they can easily be incorporated into classroom instruction.
Pinpointing Conceptual and General Preparedness
First, teachers need to find the zones of students’ proximal development to achieve useful differentiation in classroom instruction. You can take some formative assessments for the same concept, which have already been used by a fellow teacher who teaches a lower grade level than yours. Then you can modify them to develop your own formative assessment to recognize students who are facing issues with that concept. You must incorporate varying levels of knowledge into these assessments. You should include items addressing simple skill and recall (for example, one-step equations, verbs like “identify,” and one-to-one associations) together with strategic thinking capacities (equation creation, multi-step problems, and word problems). Just include three to five questions to get a clear picture of your student’s abilities. Ensure that students understand the assessments and demonstrate their work after completion. Carrying out informal assessments via the observation of students during general, independent, or small group instructions is also an effective idea.
Once the assessments are evaluated, students should be divided into small groups. You should keep three to five students in each group for small classes and a maximum of ten students in large classes. Use both the score and the concepts they’re struggling with to create the groups. These groups need to be fluid and flexible, meaning some students may change groups when you tackle varying benchmarks. As the time to rotate small groups is almost an integral part of mathematics instruction, you’ll be able to categorize your flexible groups.
With the help of tiered lessons, you can reach struggling students by accessing their knowledge levels’ depth they’ve already mastered. For instance, you can develop activities that access above grade level, grade level, and below grade-level knowledge during your lesson. This strategy minimizes struggling students’ frustration and provides them with an opportunity to follow instructions. Though you can structure the tiers based on grade level, it’s suggested to start with the minimum level of knowledge and advance toward higher orders of thinking.
While many teachers find it difficult to deliver differentiated instruction, you can conveniently incorporate it into lesson plans using the above strategies. When small group rotations are possible, you should use flexible group instruction to give struggling students time to help them become confident and achieve their learning goals. Tiered lessons are another useful way to achieve differentiated instruction. When you use any or both of these two strategies, all students will access your lessons, regardless of their proficiency level.