Teaching Strategies

Differentiating Instruction

To ensure assessments are valid and appropriate, teachers need to be knowledgeable about the diverse ways that students learn and master specific concepts. Teachers need to determine appropriate starting points for the students, and then continue to assess individual and class progress as ideas, topics and/or skills develop. When students are not progressing at the same rate, or there are variations of strengths and weakness, assessment for learning provides valuable data on which to base differentiation decisions. With this knowledge, teachers can provide their students with descriptive, ongoing, timely feedback during the learning process and design new math tasks that challenge students' ideas and build new strong, deep understanding.

Some questions teachers might ask themselves include:

  • Do my students understand what they need to improve?
  • Do I know what is essential about the concept I am introducing to students?
  • Do I know how to adjust my teaching to meet my students' needs better so they can take their next steps with increased, deepened understanding?

As teachers focus their assessment practices on learning, they will find that they need to differentiate instruction so all students can succeed. This means that teachers will plan some activities that are for all students or groups of students and some that are for individual students. They will use multiple, adaptable resources for students, including a wide variety of digital resources. They will design and support learning that provides students with multiple, flexible ways to give expression to their emerging understandings. And they will design engaging differentiated tasks and activities based on their students' understandings, the outcomes in the program of studies, the mathematical concepts they are addressing and what they know about how people learn.