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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Personalizing Learning in Math Class

Over the last few years, the enrollment at my school has continued to decline.  This led us to create several multi-age classrooms.  I had not experienced a multi-age classroom since I was an elementary student myself so I did what any professional reading junkie would do and looked up books on Amazon.  I was surprised to find that almost all the books written about multi-age classrooms were published in the early 90's.   This must have been the last time there was a big push to make classrooms multi-age.  After doing some research, I ended up purchasing Multiage Portraits which gave me some good information to start with.  I also visited a classroom at another local school who had been doing multi-age classrooms for years and learned a great deal there.

As we began doing multi-age classrooms, classroom teachers found a way for most subjects to work in a multi-age way.  The subject they were struggling the most with was math.  We ended up in a model where we were pulling kids into grade level groups for math.  This meant I was doing primary instruction for several grades and eliminated a great deal of the time I used to have for co-teaching, intervention, coaching and the myriad of other tasks being a math specialist in a small school entails.  

These factors along with the fact that there are already huge spreads in ability in a single grade, led me to believe that we could teach math in a multi-age setting.  I recruited one of my most enthusiastic colleagues and last school year we co-taught a Kindergarten/first grade combination math class.  There were a few bumps in the road along the way, but in the end it turned out better than we could have ever imagined and we learned a great deal about personalizing learning along the way.  The lessons we learned from doing this combined math class together have helped me create a 2/3 and a 5/6 combination math this school year.  In addition, it has helped both of us better meet students' needs in single grade classrooms as well.  We might have needed the push of attempting multi-age to get us there, but personalizing math class benefits all learners.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing detailed posts about what I learned last year and how I have been using that to personalize learning for students from K-6 this year.  Here are some of the basics of what we did, each of them will be posted on in greater detail soon! 

-Leveling Games
-Curating Online Resources
-Color Coding
-Math Boxes
-Teaching Mindset
-Independent Practice
-Number Talks
-Flexible Groupings
-Formative Assessment
-Math Journals
-Low Floor, High Ceiling Tasks

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