20 Simple Ideas for Teaching Math to a Classroom of Multi-Level Kids

One of your kids is ready for multiplication and one can’t quite count the fingers on one hand. Sound familiar?[…]Continue Reading

One of your kids is ready for multiplication and one can’t quite count the fingers on one hand. Sound familiar? Kids begin school with a wide range of skills, and that can make it tough to plan lessons that can help every child in your classroom thrive. Here are 20 quick differentiation ideas that we hope will spark a few simple solutions for your classroom.

  1. Integrate math into every part of your day. Have kids silently count the steps from the door to the drinking fountain or point out the shapes they see around the classroom.
  2. Vary your learning centers. Provide variety, including digital play, hands-on manipulatives, pencil and paper, and teacher-led instruction, so each child can learn in his or her area of strength.
  3. Give options for assignments. One student may want to write the names of the shapes while another may make an artistic collage. You’ll reach kids with varying skill levels and still effectively demonstrate understanding.
  4. Likewise, offer students a variety of assessment options when possible. It could be digital, pen and paper, or even kinesthetic. Then students can demonstrate their learning in the way that best suits them.
  5. Give short pre-quizzes. At the start of each unit, do a quick assessment to help identify which students might struggle. Offer those students extra support.
  6. Try a digital curriculum that has a differentiated approach. Technology has strong kid appeal and is well suited to math practice. Plus, with many digital tools, you are able to schedule and plan different lessons for different students in a simple, organized and concise way.
  7. Pair high-performing students with struggling students for group activities. At least some of the time, have students of differing abilities collaborate. They all will learn from the experience.
  8. Make a math corner in your classroom. Fill it with everything from Judy clocks to math tiles to counting flash cards.
  9. Talk about math even when you’re teaching other subject areas. For example, in reading class, have students track and tally how many books they’ve read. In art, ask students to count their colored pencils before they start coloring.
  10. Have math tasks ready for fast finishers. Keep tablets or computers that are preloaded with math learning tools in your classroom for students to use when they finish work early.
  11. Help families to practice at home. Recommend games and apps that kids and their parents can use at home to reinforce your curriculum.
  12. Use manipulatives as often as possible.
  13. Play digital games in class. The best ones allow students to move at their own pace. (Tip: Choose a system that allows you to track and pace each of your students separately yet view cohesive reports in one place so you don’t have to manage the hassle of a bunch of different apps all on different levels at the same time.)
  14. Integrate short videos into your lessons. They’ll catch your students’ attention and reinforce concepts.
  15. Have students make three-column “KWL” charts with each lesson. In the first column, they can write or draw what they know; in the second, what they want to learn; and in the third, what they learned.
  16. Create tiered lessons. With this type of lesson, each step builds on the last one so that students can back up a step and work on an earlier tier if they are struggling.
  17. Give challenge assignments to your top-performing students.
  18. Build a technology toolkit folder on your classroom tablets or computers. Keep the toolkit stocked with the latest digital math tools and curriculum.
  19. Collaborate! Work with a fellow teacher to share planning duties, with one of you planning lessons or activities for the top students and one doing the same for the struggling ones.
  20. Check for understanding frequently. Try having students put their heads down and raise a thumbs up for “got it” and a thumbs down for “need more help.” Adjust your lessons accordingly.

Want more math teaching ideas? Join us and other early learning educators for a Twitter Party on Thursday, April 24, 2014, for a discussion on early math learning and a chance to win great prizes including a VINCI tablet for your classroom!