Differentiated Math Instruction:
Using Rich Tasks, Whole Group Discussion, and Small Group Work to Reach All Learners
(Subject to change.)
Rich problems invite a variety of solution strategies. They provide an effective vehicle for accommodating a range of levels and learning styles. In this six-week course participants will explore strategies for using problem solving to build skills and concepts for struggling students and to provide challenge for those who are ready. The problems will be drawn from across the Math Forum's Problems of the Week services.
- To develop your own ability to analyze math problems in order to take better advantage of a problem's potential.
- To learn strategies for launching and facilitating inclusive problem solving sessions that allow all students to grow.
- To learn strategies for making problems both more accessible and more challenging in order to reach all learners.
- To learn how rich problems help teachers differentiate instruction for learners with diverse developmental levels and learning needs.
- To hone skills at orchestrating productive discussions across a wide range of approaches to a single problem.
- To practice designing differentiated small-group follow-up instruction.
- To participate in an ongoing community of teachers using rich problems.
Instructor: Max Ray-Riek, Project Manager
- Participation requires Problems of the Week membership at the Class level or higher. Non-members or Individual Teacher members may purchase the necessary access at a discounted rate.
- This moderated course will take place in NCTM's Canvas environment. The only technical requirements are a web browser and Internet access.
- The course will take place in two "chunks". During the US summer months, we will focus on selecting, analyzing, launching, and facilitating rich tasks. Then once the school year is underway, we will reconvene to consider how student thinking can be used to plan differentiated instruction, and how to facilitate a productive discussion when students present a wide range of ideas and understandings. Each chunk will consist of three one-week rounds that each begin on Monday morning and end Sunday night. Participants will have some flexibility within each week but are expected to complete the activities during the assigned week. Each week's assignments are due by Sunday night, unless otherwise noted. Participants should expect to spend 3-5 hrs per week on course activities.
- Readings: All required readings are available from within the course or elsewhere online.
- Online discussions and blogs: Much of the value of the course will come from sharing ideas among the group. You will be expected to post your own thoughts and experiences, and to read and respond thoughtfully to your coursemates' postings.
Participants who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate indicating that they have completed 20 hours of professional development. This is equivalent to 2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
Week 1 – What Makes a Task Rich?
- Introduce yourself to the rest of the group.
- Read about the characteristics of rich problems.
- Familiarize yourself with the mathematical scenario for your grade band and analyze some different tasks associated with it.
Week 2 – Launching Rich Tasks
- Share multiple approaches that students might take to solving the task for your grade band.
- Connect the task(s) and student approaches to relevant Common Core Standards.
- Read about strategies for launching rich tasks that lower barriers to entry while maintaining the rigor of the task.
- Share your own plans for launching this task with your students.
Week 3 – Facilitating Rich Tasks
- Read and share noticings about 2-3 pieces of student work from your grade band, who represent different approaches and levels of readiness.
- Create questions or prompts to help each student feel motivated to return to the problem and keep thinking.
- Read about giving feedback and help to students with different needs.
BREAK: Enjoy the beginning of the US school year; consider using one of these tasks in your classroom.
Week 4 – Whole Group Discussions in Diverse Groups
- Read a class set of student work on the rich task for your grade-band.
- Use the student work to practice Smith and Stein's 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussion.
- Read about orchestrating mathematical discussions and intentionally planning for math talk.
Week 5 – Using Flexible Small Groups to Differentiate Instruction
- Return to the class set of student work on the task for your grade band. Consider how you might group students for follow-up tasks.
- Share follow-up tasks you design for one or more groups of students.
- Read about strategies for grouping students, and small-group instruction.
Week 6 – Looking Back, Looking Ahead
- Reflect on your learning in the course.
- Make an implementation plan.
- Is there a quiz you give, or a task or problem from your curriculum, that you could use formatively and have different follow-up grouping based on student work?
- Is there a problem you use that could be the start of a productive math discussion?
- How can you recruit colleagues to help you look at student work and design follow-ups?
- Complete our course evaluation.
Please email Max Ray-Riek with any questions.