I have decided to title my infographic as Differentiated Math Instruction to indicate my perspective as a high school math teacher. I have read articles in the past concerning this topic, but not as deep as during this assignment. The information contained in this graphic mirrors what Carol Tomlinson addresses in her text. (2001) If you follow the path from the top left to the bottom, it passes through the major elements of differentiated instruction.
As I reflect on my experiences with instruction in high school math, I feel inadequate in the area of differentiated instruction as I review these elements. I admit to not utilizing most of these elements. In fact, I am guilty of doing those things that are not differentiated instruction. I usually teach students as though they are all the same, and I know I shouldn’t. I understand the differences in learning styles, but it can be difficult to incorporate a variety of them in an upper level mathematics class. Another major fallacy in my instruction is that I tend to use quantity of practice problems and equate this to more understanding. Practice makes perfect, right? I have a lot to learn.
I found several websites that described a math teacher’s perspective on differentiated math instruction. Robert Pronovost uses computer games after whole group instruction by using technology to provide students with immediate feedback. (2012) Although this component is not listed specifically in my infographic, I believe it falls under the element of multiple approaches in relation to process. One aspect of learning math that I do believe in is immediate feedback. It doesn’t help anyone when a student does work, but doesn’t get feedback until a day later, or in some cases a week! I, too, believe technology would help in differentiated instruction in this aspect.
Another math teacher indicated that their definition of differentiated math instruction was about teaching math developmentally. (2016) I get what they are saying. Students come to math class with a wide array of skill and knowledge, even in a class such as Algebra 2. You would think students are prepared for an advanced level algebra course, yet you can have students in this class not skilled at combining fractions, or understanding fully what functions are. In order to attain a higher level of understanding of Algebra 2, you need that solid foundation that precedes it. It’s incremental. And in my personal opinion, the study of mathematics is very similar to learning a foreign language, or learning to play a musical instrument. They both involve quite a bit of preparation, practice, and understanding in order to advance in skill. Technology can assist in this avenue as well.
Smith and Throne believe that technology can assist with differentiated instruction in areas of engagement, readiness, and learning styles. (2009) These are areas that I feel technology can help students too. I currently use an online math resource that helps in these areas and I feel it does benefit students. The class I am utilizing this resource in is a “support class” for Algebra 1. I can confidently say that it allows students to be more successful than not having such as resource. So, in a way, I do use some sort of differentiation in my math classes currently, but still feel inadequate in the whole process.
K5CHALKBOX. (2016). What is Differentiated Math Instruction? Retrieved from http://www.k5chalkbox.com/differentiated-math-instruction.html
Pronovost, Robert. (2012). Differentiating in Math Using Computer Games. Teaching Channel. . Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/differentiating-in-math#video-sidebar_tab_video-guide-tab
Smith, G. E., & Throne, S. (2009). Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms. Eugene, Or: International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE].
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.