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The Differentiated Math Classroom



I’m always looking for new ideas and/or new ways to structure my math classroom. So, last summer I bought a couple of books to read.  I finished one, but didn’t finish the second: The Differentiated Math Classroom, A Guide for Teachers, K-8, by Miki Murray and Jenny Jorgensen. I got to page 64, but then school started, I put it aside, and never got back to it. So, I’m restarting the book, and plan to post summaries of the chapters as I read, in case anyone else is interested in learning what these authors have to share. If you have read the book already, have implemented any of the ideas from it, or are currently reading the book, please share your thoughts and/or experiences :)

In the introduction to the book, the authors share the idea that differentiation is not individualized instruction, but rather a process for adapting teaching to accommodate the needs of all learners.  They explain that this book will describe and illustrate “powerful mathematics curriculum through the lenses of problem solving and differentiation.”

Referencing Carol Ann Tomlinson, they explain that effective math teaching includes:
     * focusing on the essential big ideas of math
     * expecting all students can and will understand math
     * continuously assessing student thinking and understanding
     * planning and structuring lessons based on student needs and important content
     * facilitating high-level conversations with appropriate and timely questions

The authors explain that they will describe ways to utilize time efficiently (I hope to find some good ideas here – I have math class for about 42 minutes each day and though I believe I do a good job of maximizing that time, I am always searching for improvements!).

The authors point out that, according to Dr. Tomlinson, there is “no one best way to plan for and implement differentiation in mathematics,” but that there are general principles (coming in chapter 1) that provide guidance for teachers.

Murray and Jorgensen briefly discuss an important factor to consider when teaching math - "downshifting" due to the fear of math.  Downshifting results in individuals becoming less able to access what they know and less able to engage in complex intellectual tasks. Students experiencing downshifting due to fear in math may be silent, withdrawn or cynical. Recognition of this factor is critical when working with students!

In closing the introduction, the authors share that they have worked together for 20 years, have taught inservice courses, provided staff development and presented at national conferences. They are inspired to research and to help teachers feel comfortable differentiating their math programs.

I'm looking forward to reading what Murray and Jorgensen have to offer!

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