Teaching mixed ability maths students in at secondary school is something I have rarely experienced. This year however, I do have the pleasure and I say pleasure because it really is.
When I first found out I’ll be teaching mixed ability throughout key stage three my first reaction was one of trepidation. I had taught mixed ability when I worked at a summer school in Africa but that was just for a month.
In planning the lessons my first thought was DIFFERENTIATION. Not by outcome or task but by learning aids, problem solving and greater use of assessment for learning strategies. Use of the place value table, student teamwork and mini-whiteboards are key to achieving differentiation.
I am particularly fortunate as we are developing a new whole school programme of study at key stage three which means I get to design the mathematics curriculum from scratch. The first module is on place value and basic number properties. At the end of the module students will create their own number system that is hopefully as functional as ours is today.
To achieve this I created a mixed ability toolkit for number that focuses on:
Each sheet is effectively a specialised mini-whiteboard. The print outs are laminated and placed in a plastic wallet which all students can access if they wish. More able students tend to use mental or written methods whereas the less able benefit from doing the working on the laminated sheets.
Three weeks in and I must admit I love it. I am frequently out of my comfort zone with challenging all kids at various levels, using questioning to maintain pace for all and setting homework which challenges everyone while consolidating and extending learning.
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