I'm piloting Investigations for the second year. Overall, my students have adapted very well to the program. Number sense, problem solving, and computation stategies are becoming increasingly sophisticated for almost all kids. Or almost all. I have a small group of students who came to 5th grade with weak backgrounds. They failed the 4th grade MCAS or hit the failing/needs improvement line. They have no foundation of number sense from 3rd and 4th grade to build on, so are getting left in the dust by their classmates who are REALLY catching on. These low kids do not understand what inverse operations mean. They see 10 X 9 = 90 as something completely different from 90 divided by 9 = 10. Cluster problems were only possible for them in cooperative groups. When asked to do them alone, they couldn't even explain what a cluster problem was. We used manipulatives, multiple towers, factor/multiple posters, 300's charts, and lots of other resources. They still struggle in spite of lots of group work and manipulatives. As you would suspect, their self-confidence is low.
I am beginning an action research project in my classroom to develop a menu of instructional strategies above and beyond what I am already doing to help these kids fill in the gaps in number sense, and allow the rest of the class to move ahead. I am thinking about differentiating instruction for the same activity by substituting easier numbers for lower kids. I'm also thinking about trying to differentiate instruction by making up packets of classwork at varying levels of challenge, and letting students self-select packets at their own level. I'm also going to try peer focus groups where students work in groups based on the strategy they like best, or some other chosen criteris (not who their friends are working with).
Does anyone else have any suggestions for specific strategies to use within the classroom that don't involve tutoring (they already get that, with activities from Gr. 3 and 4 of Investigations)? Any suggestions will be appreciated.