While every classroom has students at different levels, there is a larger range of levels in special education classrooms. Somehow, teachers are expected to be able to group students and teach multiple levels at the same time. With some tweaking, it is possible! Here are tips to help you differentiate math materials and meet all of the different levels of your classroom.
arrange centers by level
During math centers, divide students into small groups based on their skills and levels. All of the centers can be working on the same general skill, but each table or center can focus on an individual level of the skill.
For example, if there are three different math centers working on money skills, you could set the centers up like this:
- Center 1 focuses on coin ID, sorting by coin, counting pennies, etc.
- Center 2 could be working on the value of coins, sorting by value and maybe counting up the value of small groups of coins.
- Center 3 targets money word problems, giving back change, adding up larger amounts of money, etc.
Splitting students up this way helps ensure students don’t get frustrated with materials and tasks that are too high or low for them.
Differentiate how you use math materials
Sometimes it isn’t possible to separate groups or centers by level. Instead, use the same materials and manipulatives, but in different ways. For example, using colored bears and/or snap blocks at your center, but each student uses them to work on different skills.
Here’s an example of a math group using snap blocks with 3 students on different math levels.
- Student 1: uses the snap blocks to practice counting with 1:1 correspondence and making sets
- Student 2: Uses the blocks to make and extend patterns
- Student 3 uses the blocks while working on adding or subtracting problems
hands on materials in different levels
Use or create hands-on materials at different levels. This could mean having different levels altogether or added prompts to help all students be successful.
Example of 2 levels:
Example of adding supports to help students be successful:
Differentiate math in task boxes
Gather math tasks at several different levels so that each student has the opportunity to practice the skill at their level during task boxes. Here are examples of different levels of math materials we use to practice time.
Differentiate with math notebooks
This is one of the easiest ways to differentiate in math. It’s also a great way to work on copying and using info on the whiteboard.
For math notebooks, we section off the board labeling one section for each student. Next, we write math tasks that are appropriate for each individual student. No prep or extra work is needed! Students complete their math tasks in their math notebook at their desk or table and raise their hand when they are done. The circles above the students’ names are the number of math tasks each student still needs to complete.