By guest post
It’s no secret that mathematics is one of the greatest educational challenges for many students in the United States. The most recent PISA figures, or, Program for International Student Assessment, showed that while American 15-year-olds scored “at the international average of industrialized nations in science and reading,” they were “below the international average in math.” President Obama has even weighed in on the issue saying, “We’ve got to get serious about education,” and “It is an undeniable fact that countries who out educate us today are going to outcompete us tomorrow.” But with new ideas in the field of math education making a steady rise in popularity, is there perhaps hope blossoming alongside these concerns?
The goal of differentiated learning is to increase individual success by allowing students the freedom to move at their own unique, yet guided pace within the classroom. Teachers use a number of metrics to design either specific curriculums, or specific timeframes and tools appropriate for each student’s learning curve. The following are some of the most commonly used strategies of interventions for differentiated instructions that teachers are using today, which many believe offer greater promise for future American generations as they pertain to mathematics especially.
Tiered assignments are assignments given to students in tiered levels of complexity. Essentially, while they teach the same curricular content and objectives, they are of varying complexities appropriate for each student’s learning level or readiness level. This type of differentiation, like most others, allows students who are at higher levels to learn more complex principles and thus travel at a pace more appropriate for them, while allowing student’s with lower readiness levels or understanding, to grasp the basics of these same principles before moving on.
A learning contract is similar to any other standard contract but is made between the teacher and each student individually. The contracts are drawn up by the teacher with the student’s learning style, math prowess, and unique goals in mind. This is geared to help children get as far into the material as possible at an appropriate pace. It’s also a great way to target specific learning styles for students and can help individuals learn planning skills and independence while eliminating unnecessary repetition and practice of understood material.
Flexible grouping may entail a number of grouping strategies employed by the teacher. They may assign groups by particular levels of comfort with certain material or principles, or randomly assign groups to give students the chance to learn and teach one another. Groups may also be set by specific interests relating to the material, or chosen by the students themselves. Grouping offers a variety of ways to get students involved in the learning process with each other, and can be a good way to practice differentiated learning without labeling students as struggling or advanced.
As previously mentioned, these are only a few of the various techniques already being used by teachers around the country that have shown promise. As is true with any subject, the best way to gain a sound teaching strategy is to gain an understanding of a number of different techniques and the unique advantages and disadvantages associated with each.