How to Differentiate Math Lessons

“When you develop curriculum that provides a time where students can work at their own level, you will have focused students who love math. “


Oh the dreaded word… Differentiate. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this word I would be rich! In college differentiating was required for every mock lesson planned, and had to be in every education paper at least 10 times. I graduated college knowing this word but was clueless in how to successfully differentiate.

I was determined to figure out how to level instruction so students would start at their level and be able to move forward based on their speed. I needed a time in our curriculum where those students who needed to not only learn the standard but the background were reached but the gifted students were challenged, at the same time!

The Prep
I started out breaking up the standard and developed 6 tiered activities. The first three activities were meeting the standard and the other three activities went beyond the standard. I also made sure to make the activities front and back so if they were wrong they would get help then try again on the other side.

The Plan
I grouped students based on their pre-assessment and had 3 groups. I showed them their groups so they knew which paper to grab. I made sure to be clear this was an individual activity that will be done at their seats. They were not allowed to get help from other students unless asked or told by the teacher. When they finished with their activity they were to come sit down on the floor where I would check it. You could be stationed at your desk too, I just love being able to sit on the floor (not a lot of floor sitting when your a middle school teacher). I would provide a short amount of time helping fix their mistakes or direct them to another student. At one time I looked up and saw all my students engaged with an activity that wasn’t too hard or too easy. I knew this is what successful differentiating is!

The hardest part was designing the activities, it was more than worth it. As a first year teacher classroom management was challenging, when I spent time finding and making engaging activities I didn’t even need to manage them.

Keeping math engaging means planning instruction so students are able to start at the beginning or go beyond a math standard. When you develop curriculum that provides a time where students can work at their own level, you will have focused students who love math. 

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