Tier 1: Rich, Differentiated Classroom Instruction 

Incorporate frequent use of small group instruction, frequent daily formative assessment to drive instruction and incorporate evidence based learning strategies into instruction. 

Fundamental to differentiation is the understanding that one does not alter the outcome but rather provides alternatives in instruction, assessment, and/or environment to meet the needs of the learner.

Differentiating Is…Differentiating Is Not…
Choosing appropriate tasks that continually challenge learners.Providing tasks that students are successful at but fail to push their learning forward.
Allowing more time when students need it.Accepting incomplete work because students didn’t  have time to finish.
Arranging small group instruction to target the needs of specific groups.Using only full class instruction.
Providing more explicit instruction and worked examples for struggling learners in an effort to help students learn to work more independently.Talking students through every task so they don’t have a chance to develop self-coping strategies.
Explicitly teaching and reinforcing self-coping strategies to create independence.Allowing struggling learners to over-rely on extra supports and inefficient strategies.
Providing choice and parallel tasks so students can choose entry points and challenge level.Giving the same task to all students.Only giving choice to students that would benefit from additional challenges
Using open-ended questions, rich tasks or low-floor, high-ceiling tasks so that all students have an entry point and the challenge level can be easily adapted.Using only closed tasks and questions (those with only one right answer).Allowing only students that would benefit from challenges to participate in open or creative tasks.
Providing complex and creative tasks that challenge all students.Rewarding quick and efficient completion of practice with more work.
Enriching learning by providing questions, tasks, projects and or research that allows for deeper learning of concepts beyond the curriculum.Teaching next year’s outcomes.
Using technology to provide alternative tasks, target gaps in skills and knowledge, and provide more practice.Using technology to entertain and occupy learners.
Providing choice as much as possible.Students can choose:Manipulatives (choosing which manipulative to use or choosing not to use any)How to show or represent their workThe strategy for solving the problemRequiring all students to use the same materials and follow the same procedures and steps.

Process for Responsive Instruction

It is important to have a process to follow to meet the needs of students who are not currently meeting mathematics outcomes within classroom instruction.

The Dufour’s Professional Learning Community questions are helpful to guide a process for intervention (Saskatchewan Reads Team, 2015).

In a true RTI (Response to Intervention) model, you would use a universal screen to see where everyone is at and what areas are needed for instruction.

Gersten (2009) suggests that Response to Intervention begins with “… High quality instruction and universal screening for all students.”

The following table contains relevant links to support rich, differentiated classroom instruction:

Responsive Instruction
in Classrooms
Supporting All LearnersTargeted/Group Approaches – Module 2 – Targeting Mathematics Instruction: Knowing Our Learners focuses on fostering a positive mathematics environment to support the needs of individual learners.

“Module 3 – Instruction in Mathematics: Effective Instructional Practices” provides suggestions for Instructional approaches that support the learning needs of students and enhance mathematical thinking.
Differentiating Instruction in MathematicsThis website has many supports for intervention in math.
Effective and Differentiated Instruction in MathematicsThis booklet provides an “at a glance” look at effective and differentiated instruction in Mathematics. It includes classroom scenarios that describe how teachers assess, plan and adapt their instruction to determine and address their students’ interests, learning needs and preferences.
Vocabulary Strategies for the Mathematics ClassroomChildren learn mathematics best by using it, and understanding the language of math gives students the skills they need to think about, talk about, and assimilate new math concepts as they are introduced. This article addresses this important concept.
Frayer ModelThis article asks you to consider how the Frayer model could be used with any difficult concept you are discussing in class.
Capacity Building Series: Student Self-AssessmentOne type of assessment that has been shown to raise students’ achievement significantly is student self-assessment.2
Webinar | Math in PracticeWatch a recorded webinar on Susan O’Connell’s Math in Practice.3
Formative Assessment – LiveBinderThis website has many supports for formative assessment and intervention in math.
TeachingLD.orgTeaching Tutorials are produced by the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).
Concrete-Representational-Abstract: Instructional Sequence for MathematicsThis article describes how to support students with disabilities who struggle to understand the core concepts that underlie operations and algorithms.
Concrete-Representational-Abstract Instructional ModelVideo: The Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) model, also known as Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract, is a three-stage method of teaching mathematical concepts that provides students with hands-on activities that allow them to understand a concept before using or memorizing the algorithms.
What Is The Concrete Representational Abstract ApproachThis video explains how to use CRA to differentiate during whole class instruction.
Interactive Think Aloud – Math StrategiesThe Think Aloud strategy is especially helpful in a class of diverse learners, ELL in particular. The teacher can think aloud while teaching a concept to the whole group, allowing the students to see and hear the teacher’s thought process and how that correlates to the actions of the teacher. Another way to use this strategy is by having students lead the think aloud.
Math PodsBreak your students into small groups and provide a variety of mathematics experiences/stations with the same/similar outcome.
Guided MathGuided Math is a structure for teaching whereby a teacher supports each child’s development of mathematical proficiency at increasing levels of difficulty, within the context of a small group
LiveBinders Guided MathWebsite contains many resources and supports for Tier 1 classroom supports with Guided Math.
Guided Math.orgGuided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction for Elementary, Middle, and High Schools
Using Peer Teaching Teach Concepts And Build Community In A ClassroomVideo: Students partner up to review homework and reteach concepts.
Math Forum – Constructivism in Mathematics EducationThis forum provides links and thinking around the concept of constructivism in math as a way to create situations for students that will foster their making the necessary mental constructions.
Numberless Word ProblemsNumberless word problems are designed to provide scaffolding that allows students the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the underlying structure of word problems.
Number TalksDaily Routines (Thinking and Talking about Math)
Number StringsA number string is a set of related math problems, crafted to support students to construct big ideas about mathematics and build their own strategies.
Differentiating Instruction in MathParallel and Open-ended Questions
Open-Ended Math TasksParallel and Open-ended Questions
Parallel and Open Questions Grades K-3Parallel and Open-ended Questions
1 2 3 + = %Parallel and Open-ended Questions
Rubric for Open Ended and Parallel Task QuestionsParallel and Open-ended Questions
Open Middle® – Challenging math problems worth solvingParallel and Open-ended Questions
Low Entry High Ceiling Tasks-2Low-floor, High-ceiling Tasks
To Differentiate: High Ceilings and Low FloorsLow-floor, High-ceiling Tasks
This list is neither prescriptive, nor exhaustive but will give teachers a starting place for conversations around differentiation and intervention in math.
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