Monday, 21 November 2011

Personalized Learning in the Math Classroom

Students enter our classrooms each year with a range of skills and confidence levels. These levels are particularly pronounced in subjects that build on past skills, as is the case with mathematics.

In most math classrooms, whether it is a required Grade 9 or 10 math course or a senior calculus course, we have a spectrum of needs. For some students math concepts are intuitive and easily understood. Other students struggle on the first step of an introductory problem. Students who grasp math concepts easily get bored and become disengaged when they have to wait for classmates to catch up. Unfortunately, we tend to pace our class for the typical student and this is slower than some students want and need.

Yes, we do structure our class so that the quicker students move on to the homework when they are ready, but they need more. They need a personalized approach. They need a program that allows them to progress at their own speed. They need a program that will keep them engaged and motivated in their learning.

Let’s not forget the students on the other end of the spectrum: the students who struggle with concepts, need a confidence boost and who need additional support. These students need a voice. They need to be able to talk about their work and to ask their questions without feeling that they are holding up the rest of the class. They need a program where the teacher has time to work with them as individuals or in small groups. They need a program that is customized to their needs.

By using personalized learning in the math classroom, the needs of both groups can be satisfied simultaneously. Currently, I am piloting senior math courses that use blended learning as a tool to personalize the student experience and enable them to self-pace.

Currently, some students are working ahead by a few days; some are working so quickly that they will complete two courses instead of one; while others are using the lecture-free class time to get support and have concepts reinforced.

I will talk more about how I am personalizing these senior math courses in future blog posts, but needless to say, there is a need for personalized learning in all classrooms, mathematics being one of them!

Heather Rigby
Director of Personalized Learning

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