**What is Differentiation? **It is an organized yet flexible way of proactively adjusting teaching and learning to meet kids where they are and help them to achieve maximum growth as learners. (Tomlinson, 1999)

**Differentiation in Math Should: **

- Focus of instruction must be on key mathematical concepts (big ideas)
- Ensure prior assessment in order to determine what specific needs students have (cognitive development, mathematical sophistication)
- Provide student choice in terms of the details of the learning task, how the task can be done and how it is assessed.
- Understand learning needs through assessment in order to select learning strategies

**Why Differentiate? To Meet Students Needs!**

- Providing tasks within a student’s
*zone of proximal development*and ensuring each student has the opportunity to contribute to the class community is key to meeting students’ needs in math. **Zone of Proximal Development:***distance between the actual development level determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development determined through problem solving under adult guidance or collaboration with peers.*

- By ensuring mathematical instruction falls into a student’s zone of proximal development a student is able to access new ideas that are beyond what they currently know but within their reach.

EXAMPLE LESSON:

- Lesson on calculating the whole, when a percent that is greater than 100% of the whole is known, using a problem such as:
**what number is 210% of?**- The skill the teacher might emphasize is solving proportions such as but the more fundamental objective is getting students to realize that solving a percent problem is always about determining a ratio equivalent to one where the second term is 100.
**Differentiating the above problem, so that it falls within each student’s zone of proximal development might look like this:**- A teacher leads a lesson on what a percent is all about- even to students who do not have those abilities.
- The teacher allows less developed students to explore the idea of determining equivalent ratios to solve problems using percents less than 100% with ratio tables or other strategies.
- The teacher allows more advanced students to use percents greater than 100% and more formal strategies.

- **Only when the teacher feels that the use of percents greater than 100% and algebraic techniques where in an individual student’s zone of proximal development would they ask the student to work with those sorts of values and strategies.

**References:**

*More Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Secondary Mathematics Instruction*, by Marian Small and Amy Lin, Hawker Brownlow Education, 2011, pp. 1–10.

“Differentiating Mathematics Instruction.” The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat Government of Ontario,*Capacity Building Series*, Government of Ontario, Sept. 2008, www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/capacityBuilding.html.