How to Approach Differentiating Instruction in Mathematics:
- Focus Instruction on Key Concepts
- One of the most effective ways to differentiate in mathematics is to focus on the key concepts (*big ideas) rather than a narrow, specific curricular outcome.
- To do this try to cluster specific curricular outcomes and use them as learning goals over a few lessons (if this isn’t already done via a curricular continua (ex: Comox Valley Schools – School District No. 71 curricular continua).
- Examine curricular outcomes in other grade levels to understand what the key concepts are (ex: meanings of multiplication)
- “It is impossible to differentiate too narrow an idea, but it is always possible to differentiate instruction focused on a bigger idea” (Small and Lin, 4)
- Use Instructional Trajectory or Learning Landscape for Planning
- It is important to map out a sequence of instruction that identifies key mathematical concepts (clustered specific outcomes) that students need to learn.
- This allows Teachers to easily pre-assess students readiness, recognize their mathematical thinking/talents and plan out a sequence of instruction for students that aligns with where the student is at in that sequence.
- Provide Choice
- If a teacher is uncomfortable with differentiating instruction in the “main lesson” they can always provide some choice in follow up activities where students practice the ideas that have been taught.
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.” Jessica Kanold-McIntyre, Solution Tree Blog, 26 Feb. 2019, www.solutiontree.com/blog/how-to-differentiate-math-instruction/.
“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.