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Maths differentiation in a classroom

(30 Posts)
herdream1 Fri 14-Feb-14 10:55:49

Would anyone please explain how this can be done, when there is only one teacher with one TA?

Example in year 4, if the children were anywhere between level 2 and 5, what exactly (should) happen during the maths lessons, if all children were to be taught at their levels??

I find it hard to imagine this. Many thanks.

itsahen Fri 14-Feb-14 11:05:15

Ask the school. Our school mix classes by ability the groups within.

richmal Fri 14-Feb-14 17:27:50

I too cannot see how the same lesson could be aimed at lots of different abilities. IME differentiation did not happen. Dd was in a top maths set with one teacher and between 32 and 35 children. I think it was just assumed they were all at the same level. It was all done on teacher assessment of levels and since they never did more difficult work she was never assessed as being any higher ability. When dd got bored with not learning anything new I home educated.

herdream1 Fri 14-Feb-14 19:20:56

Thank you both for your replays. It has been very quiet and I wonder maybe it can NOT be done. What, then, is the point of setting the ability tables?

iseenodust Sat 15-Feb-14 15:09:35

Not a teacher but it is done. DS's class when in yr4 state primary definitely had active differentiation. An easy example is different tables would work on different times tables. He would come home with different homework sheets. They might be working on fractions and the top table would get narrative problems while another table might get draw lines to divide this cake into quarters. IMO it is definitely more work for the teacher.

DrNick Sat 15-Feb-14 15:12:08

you cant imagine how it happens?
that is because it takes a bloody skilful teacher.
in my gcse class i have everything from an E to an A*

try planning for that

DrNick Sat 15-Feb-14 15:13:23

differentitation is a HUGE thing
can be done by outcome ( frowned upon)
by setting within the class or by teaching to the middle( frowned upon) then scaffolding either way up or down

the thing NOW is teachign to the top then giving the same but different resources to certain learners
its fricken hard

claraschu Sat 15-Feb-14 15:16:14

It doesn't work. Most teachers do some differentiation, but never enough to suit the different needs even of my 3 children. I think when children are actually really good at maths (or when they struggle), their needs are not met. The ones in the middle seem to get enough differentiation to do ok.

spookyskeleton Sat 15-Feb-14 15:16:31

DS1's school does it by mixing all the junior classes into abilities so they have set times for maths throughout the week and move classrooms accordingly. It works really well smile

ilovepowerhoop Sat 15-Feb-14 15:19:06

ds's class has 3 maths group levels although he is the only person in his group as he is doing maths that is 2 primaries ahead of the rest of the class. Once a week he also has a 1-2-1 maths lesson with another teacher as he is so far beyond the other children in the class. Dd says there are 2 maths groups in her class.


Serafinaaa Sat 15-Feb-14 15:23:11

In my classroom there would generally be an introduction of some kind which would involve questions at different levels directed at different children. The TA may support certain children at this time. If and when certain groups of children seemed to be finding it too easy I'd send them off to start at their tables and keep others longer on the carpet. Or vice versa. If some needed harder work but others were glazing over I would send some off and keep back others to do harder questions. At the tables there would be differentiated work and/or different resources to support e.g. Number squares, counters, TA etc. It is difficult to pitch it just right for 30 or more children but we do our best.

JonSnowKnowsNothing Sat 15-Feb-14 15:26:56

Year 6 teacher here.
I have a range of children from level 1 to level 6. I have three statemented children and one PT TA.
It IS possible but it's damn hard, and it definitely helps having a lovely, motivated bunch of children.

My TA usually either works 1:1 with one of the statemented children (Level 1) or works with the lower ability children (ranging from 2a to 3a)

Realisitically I know we are aiming at SATs and I do pitch my main teaching quite high. The "middlies" who are mid to high fours usually work on level 5 material and they will almost all achieve L5 in the tests. Where there is an obvious gap in knowledge or someone isn't "getting it" I move them to my table and work with them.

I had a handful of children who all achieved over 95% in my SEPTEMBER assessment so they need a whole different challenge. Luckily, they are extremely motivated and relish being given challenges and investigations. I can send them off to the spare classroom and check on them once or twice and quite frankly their work amazes me.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I haven't worked with a child in a while, but I track results closely and as soon as someone starts to lag a bit I whip them near to me.

It really isn't easy and, as I say, I'm blessed with a wonderful class, but our Maths results are good (94% L4+, 20% Level 6) and the children are resilient and happy, so I think I've got a good balance.

LydiaLunches Sat 15-Feb-14 20:33:28

I forwarded the above thread to my dad who is a happily overqualified TA who does some work with GandT in maths children at his school, he came away from it completely convinced and passionate about the benefits and wisdom of totally mixed ability maths teaching, might be worth a look if you are interested OP?

FWIW, DD is taught as described by spooky but it doesn't work well for her. Bascially for maths the juniors all move to the classroom that 'represents' the level they are working at, DD from y3 to y4, but the work is slightly too hard and basic concepts are passing her by while she relies on her high literacy to work out the problems that are set but is painfully slow at the actual sums. I have asked for her to be moved down twice and been very forcefully encouraged not to, been convinced in the moment to agree with them and then regretted it a few weeks later. The problem for the teachers is that the work for the y3 'classroom' is far too easy for her. By doing a big show of differentiating the teachers seem to have absolved responsibility for then differentiating further within the 30 pupils they are allocated IYSWIM?

LydiaLunches Sat 15-Feb-14 20:33:50


BackforGood Sat 15-Feb-14 20:44:54

At least in your dc's class there is a TA, and also they are only working between Levels 2 and 5.

My dd is very fed up of her GCSE class where some are on for A*s and others struggling around Level3 work, yet still the school refuses to set.
I feel so sorry for the teachers, but equally sorry for every single pupil who is not getting the teaching they deserve.

<Bitter, moi ?>

CouthyMow Sat 15-Feb-14 20:50:58

I think it depends what the variation is. A Y6 pupil can vary between working on p-scales to working on GCSE level work. There is a limit to how much differentiation can happen within the same classroom IME.

If you are still working on p-scales in Y6, then 99% of the Maths lesson goes right over your head, if you are working on GCSE level Maths then a lesson pitched at lvl 4/5 will bore you.

Have experience of both.

My guess is that you can differentiate a Y6 lesson for a class between lvl 3 and lvl 6, but anyone out with those levels becomes far harder to differentiate for.

CouthyMow Sat 15-Feb-14 20:55:11

And I wouldn't send my DC's to a Secondary that doesn't set in Maths! Especially not DD and DS1, as it would be laughable the thought that EITHER of them could be adequately differentiated for within a single class. At this point in Y7, DD was working on p-scales still. DS1 is doing level 8 work. hmm

There just wouldn't be any possibility of DS1 being stretched at the same time as DD being taught basic Maths concepts like number bonds within the same classroom.

mercibucket Sat 15-Feb-14 21:36:41

how it works at mc state schools is . .

the parents pay for private tutors
the kids get level 6
teacher congratulates themselves on how well mixed ability teaching works

richmal Sat 15-Feb-14 22:10:23

IME dd has had some excellent teachers. However TBH I don't think I could devise a lesson covering levels 4 to 6 and everything in between.

It seems we are living in the age of the internet yet still using an education system set up in the Victorian era. Surely when technology can do so much, why can a child in a class not receive an education tailored to their level?

Rather than searching for differentiation we should be asking for different teaching methods.

LydiaLunches Sat 15-Feb-14 22:23:30

Interesting look at a different teaching method:

richmal Sun 16-Feb-14 08:02:53

Though I mainly teach dd myself, we too occasionally use Khan Academy. The videos are excellent: He understands the maths and explains it clearly. That's about what you want from a maths lesson.

I can't see UK teachers doing something similar to that US teacher due to the restraints of the curriculum and how teachers are taught lessons should be. It is a bit of a step into the unknown, but it is perhaps time for government to have a serious look at what we want education to look like in the future.

YoullNeedATray Sun 16-Feb-14 14:29:05

In my class, working alongside the other classes of same year group, I have L2c to L4b. I have 5 tables, and children are grouped according to how they are doing AND what type of support/encouragement/pushing they need. The groups change according to the maths topic (eg the groups for time were totally different to those for shape work, which were different to those for multiplication).

The starter activity usually comes in two or three forms. Likewise, when I'm doing the main input, the weaker ones may well have the TA with them doing something different, or it might be the stronger ones doing some recapping work ready to move forward.

I work with different groups on different days to ensure that all make progress. My TA also works with different children (not always the weakest). The tasks are all designed to support and stretch accordingly.

The plenary activity is usually also differentiated so that all can look at what they have achieved or what their next step is.

Marking is done every day and I will amend the next day's lessons and/or groups accordingly.

It is bl**dy hard work, but it is done and ALL make progress.

CouthyMow Sun 16-Feb-14 14:35:59

Level 2c to lvl 4b is far less of a 'spread' than p-scales to lvl 6/7, though...could you effectively differentiate the lessons if the spread in your class was that large?

JonSnowKnowsNothing Sun 16-Feb-14 14:46:11

Yes, you can, as I said in a prev post. It's tricky and it definitely relies on the children being self-motivated, but it's possible.

CouthyMow Sun 16-Feb-14 14:48:11

And if the children AREN'T self motivated? Not all those with SN's are, as they have become disheartened by education...and not all those at a higher level are, if they have been bored for three years...

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