Differentiation is a buzz word in the world of education, and with good reason. Since every student is learning at a different level, it is important to challenge but not overwhelm them…. Out of all the subjects, math is understandably one of the most stressful subjects for many students. Think of all the folks you know as adults who say they “aren’t math people.” This is usually due to skill deficits and learning gaps that occurred somewhere along the path to math literacy. This could even include a lack of fluency with math facts.
The Importance of Differentiation
With the number of operations and formulas involved and the multitude of ways problems are presented, if you miss one critical piece of the puzzle in math, the foundation just isn’t as strong. It’s kind of like the game kerplunk. If you pull that one critical straw from the tower… Kerplunk™! All the marbles fall down. Or like Jenga™ when you pull the block that is supporting the tower’s structure.
This is why differentiation is so important in math. It allows teachers to target instruction specific to an individual student’s needs. One way teachers can differentiate in math is through math fact practice. Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite ways to differentiate this work. The Color by Code Bundle is an ideal way to have students all practice the same skills but on the level that is most appropriate for them!
The Importance of Math Facts
Each year, math progresses in difficulty and concepts for students. For instance, students learn about part-whole relationships and decomposing and composing whole numbers before they take that knowledge-set and apply it to numbers less than one with fractions and decimals. One thing remains constant— the importance of math facts!
Math facts are the building blocks for more complex math concepts. Therefore, learning these concepts is easier if students are fluent with math facts. Ultimately, students will be able to devote their working memory over to more complex tasks if they can quickly recall basic facts with automaticity. Think about it– math problems will take significantly longer to solve if students have to stop and calculate each and every math fact. When there’s a constant need to pause to retrieve or calculate a basic fact before moving on, students will have a harder time understanding the process. Therefore, math facts are so important to learn, practice, and memorize!
Why Math Fact Practice Should be Differentiated
Some “old school” minded people may say that practice does not need to be differentiated. However, this is far from true. (I actually researched this for my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.) Think back to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development from your educational psychology class in undergrad. You want students working on their instructional level – not on content that they already know and that is too easy for them and you definitely don’t want content that is beyond their current capabilities. Regardless of whether the assignment is the practice or an assessment, every child should work at the level where the most learning can occur.
Meeting Students Where They Are
In order to improve upon skills and work towards content mastery, students need to have work that is just right for them. Hence, if the practice is not differentiated, then students may not be able to perform to their optimal potential. Instead, they may become frustrated and overwhelmed and may even shut down altogether. You want all students to think flexibly about numbers and be able to quickly recall the basic facts based on their knowledge of part-whole relationships and inverse operations. Since your classroom is filled with students at all ability levels, different levels of instruction should be provided.
This bundle is made to save teachers money while engaging students before any holiday or during any season! Specifically, there are practice activities for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For seasons, winter, spring, summer, and fall are included. Additionally, there are sets made specifically for back to school in order to help students transition to being back in the classroom.
Each set features six levels of differentiation in order to meet each level in the classroom. The different sets include addition to 10 and addition to 20. Then, there is subtraction within 10 and subtraction within 20. Additionally, there are combinations of addition and subtraction within 10 and addition and subtraction within 20. Ultimately, this means the bundle includes 36 different ways for your students to complete math facts practice. Therefore, this bundle includes so many ways to practice math facts for all of the learners in the classroom!
In addition to the amount of practice offered, each worksheet has been made into an engaging format. Students will not simply be solving problems. They will become artists! By solving the problems, they will learn what color to shade the math fact space in. By the end, they will have created a mathematical masterpiece!
Be sure to check out this Color by Code FREEBIE to get a better idea of the types of differentiated practice offered.
Differentiation in math is so important in providing the best education to students. By having six sets of each type of problem, all students in the classroom will be able to practice their math facts. As students progress and become more fluent in solving, they will be able to progress to the next level or set. Thankfully, this resource is filled with fun activities in order to encourage and inspire each individual student. What ways do you like to differentiate math instruction and practice in your classroom? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!