Using Rich Problems to Reach All Learners

Introduction Menu | Strategies

Key Ingredients

Know the Math

Problem analysis enables teachers to:

  • take full advantage of a problem’s potential.
  • adjust or scaffold a problem to make it more accessible.
  • ask questions and facilitate the investigation of extensions and connections to make the problem more challenging.
  • assess student work and give appropriate feedback to help a struggling student get on the right track, or to help a successful student think about it in a deeper way and extend their knowledge.
  • make better decisions about how to balance problem solving with other curricular requirements. Well-chosen problems can often replace regular exercises and assignments and accomplish curricular goals even more effectively.

What are the critical math ideas of the problem – the prerequisite knowledge and foundational concepts?

  • conceptual
  • procedural

Know the Students

  • Readiness level – most pertinent
  • Interests
  • Learning styles

Role of Assessment

  • Summative vs formative
  • Pre-assessment
  • Informal ongoing assessment – kid watching

Create a Climate of Math Learners

Successful differentiation depends on creating and sustaining a classroom culture that values and nurtures intellect and cooperation. Such a culture does not happen by chance, but rather requires intentional, persistent effort from the teacher as well as the students.

Establish norms for classroom behavior early in the year.

Establish high intellectual expectations for all students and communicate them explicitly and in positive terms.


Oganization of materials

Structure of lesson plans

Flexible grouping strategies

Routines and signals

Appropriate choices of learning tasks

Communicate with parents

Introduction Menu | Strategies

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