For the past couple of weeks, I have been writing about what I call "math workshop."  (Recently, I learned there was already something else called math workshop, so I guess I will have to come up with something else...maybe simply math class).  You can go back and read the other components of math workshop when you want.  Today's post focuses on a the logistics of math class: differentiated learning.

In a truly differentiated math class, students literally can all be working on different topics.  One of my students might be reviewing fractions while another is getting introduced to irrational numbers and another is completing an assessment on one-step linear equations.

As you may have already discerned, the logistics of this part of math class is daunting. With 150 students over the course of a day or even 30, being prepared for multiple levels and skills requires an enormous amount of organization.  By nature I am a moderately organized person.  I write lists but don't use planners. I start notes in neat lines and pretty soon have ideas going in every direction across the paper. So, it is my deep belief that if I can do it, anyone can.

Step 1 Curriculum:

I have taught many different "levels" of math, but for this discussion, I will use Algebra 1 as an example. Sometimes I get students who are mostly ready for Algebra 1, but may arrive not having mastered a concept from a previous class. And of course, it is rare that everyone needs review on the same concepts. Also, as students go through the curriculum, some students master new concepts quickly and others struggle.

So I have activities,

notes

practice problems, and assessments for everything from 6th grade math through Algebra II in my class.

I use a student problem rating system to get an idea about which students need what. I have practice problems for concepts across several grade levels.

Students work at activity centers, at their desks, in small groups, or sometimes directly with me to work on concepts.

I also have long lists of fun videos which are sometimes incorporated into skill introduction or reinforcement.

Step 2: Who is working on what?

This is the second challenge to a differentiated math class - how do I manage what each student is working on and will need next?  I have a list of all the concepts for the year (and for the year before and after my year of math for students who work ahead or really need to start back a little bit to review).  For each concept, there are three parts - introduction, practice, and assessment.

I have a copy for each student in my class AND each student has a copy.  Once a student has completed one part of a concept (introduction, practice or assessment), I mark it off and the student marks it off.  I use this handy sheet to know what is coming next for each student, but more importantly each student tracks their own progress.  In this way students always know where they are, what is coming next, and what they need to get to next.  The progress sheet goes into each student's folder so students can find the next step.  Students are empowered to move at their own pace.  Without this part, I think the logistics would be nearly impossible.

It is important to me that this time not be just worksheets, so I try to have kinesthetic activities, games, and more ready for each topic.

Thanks for joining me for the math workshop discussion.  Next week, I will wrap up the series with a summary and answer any questions that have been posted.  Be sure to put yours in the comments box.  I look forward to reading them and hearing about your own math teaching experiences.

Math Mondays is a bi-weekly blog post (2nd and 4th Monday of each month) sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching math.  If you have questions or think there is something I should include, you can leave me a message in the comments section below or at the store in the question and answer section.

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1. Our district implemented coteaching in the math classes, so the ability levels of students in my pre-algebra classes are all over the map! And it's important to keep the high achievers challenged, too. I've made many of my resources leveled, so I'm hoping that helps keep everyone engaged. Glad I found your blog! Thanks.

1. Glad you found the blog, too. And yes, I absolutely agree that you have to keep every challenged and not lose anyone. Love that you have a co-teacher. I think that would help enormously! Thanks for sharing.

Cheers,
DocRunning

2. Such an important topic! I often offer my students a "Choose Your Challenge" classwork or homework. I ask them to reflective about which assignment would be the more appropriate for them. I talk to them about challenging themselves at an appropriate level. They actually do a really great job determining whether they are working on or above grade level for a given topic.

1. That's so great to hear, Amanda. Thanks for sharing.

Cheers,
DocRunning