Become a Math Superhero!

There’s a just-right activity for every kid’s learning superpower.

By Nancy Mann Jackson

Online Resources for Differentiation

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) offers a rich menu of tips for differentiating mathematics instruction and working with different learning styles.

Play on Interests

Create math centers that incorporate some of students’ favorite things, and allow them to choose which center they want to spend time in according to their interests. For instance, a superheroes center might ask students to determine the number of buildings Spider-Man must scale to get to the damsel in distress or how far Mr. Fantastic’s arms would have to stretch to save someone at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Share the Knowledge

After teaching a new math concept or skill, have students write down an explanation of what they have just learned. Then divide the class into groups of three or four, and ask them to pass their papers around until they’ve read through the explanations of the rest of the group. When they get their own paper back, ask students to update their explanation with what they have learned from reading those of their peers. Then ask students to share what they learned by reviewing one another’s revised explanations.

Make Choice Boards

Create a “choice board,” an organizer that contains a variety of activities to help students master particular skills. Be sure to include activities that complement various learning styles, such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Provide each student with a copy of the choice board or post it on a classroom wall, and ask students to choose and complete two activities from the board to learn a new skill. For instance, if you’re teaching about measurement, the activities might include reading about measurement from a textbook, watching a video that explains how to measure various items, and using a ruler to measure various items in the classroom. The boards empower students as they tackle the challenge of mastering a new concept.

Teach Together

After teaching a new concept and allowing the class ample time to work out a few problems on their own, give one of your students your chalk or marker and ask her to come to the board and work out a problem for the entire class; have her explain what she’s doing as she shows her work. Writing while explaining allows students to organize their thoughts, prepares them for further independent work, and shows you the strategies they’re using. After the first student has finished the problem, ask another student to repeat this classmate’s explanation, rather than repeating it yourself. This strategy helps involve students in the teaching process and fosters strong listening and participation skills.

Incorporating music into your lessons can be a form of differentiation for auditory learners. Music can help students learn and remember what they need to know, so it is especially useful for teaching math facts that should be memorized, such as the multiplication tables. Create your own songs by putting the facts to a familiar tune, or divide students into groups and ask each group to come up with a song that incorporates the concepts you’re teaching. Then, as a class, vote on your favorite song and use it as a warm-up before each lesson, or with small groups or individuals to practice accuracy and speed.

Practice Progressive Testing

When creating math tests, consider placing questions in order of difficulty, progressing from the easiest problems to the hardest. When you distribute the tests, let students know that they are not expected to finish the test, but they must tackle the problems in order, without skipping. High performers in math should be graded on the entire test, but those who are less advanced could be graded on only the parts of the test they complete.

Vary Assessments

Use a variety of forms of assessment so each student has a chance to shine with the type that fits his or her learning style best. Your assessments can include formal tests, homework assignments, journals, discussions, and presentations. You may also want to incorporate self-assessments. For instance, have students create a portfolio for their homework each week or every other week. They must check to make sure that they’ve completed their assignments, revise their work as necessary, and then hand in a collection of assignments to show their improvement.

• Part of Collection:
• Subjects:
Differentiated Instruction, Learning Styles, Math Fluency and Intervention
• Skills:
Listening Comprehension, Expository Writing

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