# Outstanding differentiation in maths lessons

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by easyeasy, Nov 5, 2010.

1. ### easyeasy

At my school we are struggling to offer outstanding differentiation in maths lessons, and actually across the school.
Can anyone offer any thoughts as to what they perceive is a realistic way of outstanding differentiation in lessons?

2. ### easyeasy

At my school we are struggling to offer outstanding differentiation in maths lessons, and actually across the school.
Can anyone offer any thoughts as to what they perceive is a realistic way of outstanding differentiation in lessons?

3. ### DMNew commenter

When doing Tarsia puzzles on a topic, have two prepared. "Who wants the normal puzzle and who wants the challenging puzzle?" Self-selecting differentiation ticks two boxes in one move. You will be surprised by how many opt for the tougher one.

hammie likes this.
4. ### Betamale

I find this all very stranger...before to be outstanding you needed to show differentiation...now there is outstanding differentiation...
Does this means I can get an outstanding observation with satisfactory differentiation or do I have to have both differentiation and oustanding differentiation to be outstanding?
I think there comes a point when people end up making square wheels in the pursuit of this and get pupils so far off the highroad that it becomes counterproductive.
Differentiation by task, outcome, environment etc etc often has people making up truly crazy activities and combinations just to show this.
I can't help thinking that maths is a case of securing knowledge, ie pupils working through harder examples of basic concepts and math content and then how abstract things are.
I have no idea what is deemed oustanding differentiation but TBH I cant help thinking that its split 2 ways.
(i) When pure maths is being learned, pupils do harder examples of equations or similar
(ii) When functional/rich work is done the complexity of thinking and connections are made
I also dont agree with the idea of trying to group pupils to keep the observer happy. I am not advocating any of what I have said, Im just thinking about how pupils make progress which is not really.....ohhhh it is actually the thing oftsed want

5. ### cole1969

Not sure if this obvious but we've been working with our Primary Maths adviser and one of the strategies we've been looking at is weaving the plenary - this might not necessarily be outstanding but I'm trying to use it and have found it does have an implication for differentiation <u>during </u>the lesson ( which seems to be a bit of the outstanding bit imo).
Rather than having a plenary at the end you have a mini plenary ( either whole class or group) mid session so that you affect that lesson, rather than giving advice for the next lesson.This enables them to maybe alter the task/outcome mid lesson if their thinking or connections have moved on within the lesson
When working with an individual if we "move them on" ie change the differentiation within the lesson we mark it VF+ in their book. If we change it lower because during the lesson we realise it's too hard we use VF-.
Not sure if either of these are rocket science or what you are after. Apologies if you already do this and it's not what you're after !
I think we all agree the goal posts keep moving and all we want to do really is what works for our children !

6. ### Betamale

I personally think stopping groups or a class is not required unless they need that clarification. Nothing more annoying for some learners to be halted half way through a problem to be told what they should be doing. One on one when they need it IMO and experience is far more effective (and differentiated) with pupils who are workers and on task.
Some schools are implementing 3 plenaries which to me is simply talking about work and not doing it.
Im not sure why there is a requirement to spend time (up to 15 minutes is being suggested talking about what you have done)..this should, again IMO, simply be bullet points as we go, reminders as pupils are working about what the aim is and some tips and then at end just recapping. Optimises learning time, certainly doesn't waste the time of pupils who are on task and just adds to things they think they need to remember.
Some arty based subjects I agree that pupils need to be told what they are looking for when reading a piece, wther its about the story istelf, the writing style, hidden messages etc etc but with maths I can't help thinking its explicit enough not to keep talking about it and wasting time.
Lesson
• Kids walk in, always something for the to be starting with.
• Class come together for brief lecture on topic with questions from me and them if required
• Let the pupils iron out initial problems with teacher with a couple of worked examples
• Pupils work alone or in groups on a task on a highly taxing set of questions, or investigation with a required output by a given time.
• Teacher is free for 40+ miuntes to work with individuals/groups, briefly explaining tips and good things pupils are doing within the lesson to help others. This allows me to work on what pupils want rather than what the group doesn't giving different tasks to pupils based on ability
• Mark it at the end and iron out misconceptions as a group
• Rinse, repeat next time we meet
Sure, some lessons have to have a little more structure in terms of investigations but which wins?
A C/D border group talking about equations and producing 5 of their own in a lesson or the same kids doing, hammering out 60 examples and becoming automated in the process (or at least more confident)?
If you are truly differentiating a class pleanry will eclude many, not apply to what some have learned and confuse others further.
Its not fashionable and will not win ofsted points but TBH differentiation to me is catering for different kids, not different transient trends dicated by people who generally no longer teach.

7. ### weebecka

If you're really committed to offering outstanding differentiation, put your year 9s into mixed attainment classes for a term.

I suggest you put them in large classes so you can have a floating teacher to work in support of teachers, students and activities.

So long as your students are in tightly banded groups it's actually virtually impossible to develop some of the strategies of outstanding differentiation.

8. ### ResourceFinder

Alternatively

Group kids according to ability ... that way 80% of the differentiation is done

Differentiation is about teaching the kid in front of you effectively

If the kids are set then you have a tighter band of capacity so that differentiation needs to be tighter

Outstanding differentiation in a set class needs outstanding knowledge of the kids ... who will find this topic generally hard ... why you need to ask Bob the question that involves a fraction ... why Ginny needs an example with negative numbers drawn to her attention ... why Tom needs to sit next to Penny so that he can quietly ask her for a bit of clarification ... why Dan needs to be sat at the front so that you can watch that he does not transpose numbers when copying the examples ... why Laura needs that next step question ... why Cameron needs you to go to him as soon as the exercise is started ... and why you need a problem ready for Ian when he has finished quickly and successfully

That is just some of the differentiation I do every lesson with my Set 1 Y11 ... I doubt if I could be so specific in a mixed ability group where I have 4 of those kids rather than 30 and they have to do the hard stuff

Just my opinion of course

9. ### Betamale

Its a good one
Exactly the reason the education system is going downhill...Why do this purely to show differentiation?
So, you propose we have an additional teacher in the room.......numerous topics going on in one room just to show you can differentiate?
So we have level 8s needing to be pushed further in with pupils who either can't or don't want to do level 4 work and then thats god differentiation? Im sorry this is a sad reflection on what Oftsed believe teaching should be..
Hows about set the pupils and have your 'floating teacher' which is costing &pound;x p/a to your school do small group work outside the class either high attainers or lower attainers WITHIN already setted groups.
Your suggestion is to jeopardise a pupils attainment in order to show some clowns with tickboards you can play their game?
Please, if I have misunderstood what you have written I apologise 100%..but if this is what I believe then sorry its dreadful.

10. ### bigkidNew commenter

In our department we are struggling to care which OFSTED rating any aspect of our teaching fits into. I haven't the faintest idea whether our differentiation is outstanding or not. Couldn't care less.
Our results are good and on the up. The pupils seem to either enjoy their maths lessons or not hate them too much. They are generally doing at least the minimum amount of work their teacher requires, behaving and achieving.
That being the case why should we care which box some trench-dodging classroom refugee chooses (or would choose) to tick?

Mr_Mathematics and laurarobbo91 like this.
11. ### MathsHOD

We can look at all these OFSTED lesson descriptions all day long and argue back and forth but the bottom line is that we need to do what is right for our students.

Do the students make good progress (ultimately get high results and also develop as mathematicians)?

Do students enjoy their maths?

If the answer to these is both yes then, frankly, we're doing OK (and OFSTED will probably say nice things). If the answer is no then we're doing less OK (and hopefully then OFSTED will not be so kind).

I can't really imagine an OFSTED report that said "Achievement is outstanding but teaching and learning is unsatisfactory" or vice versa.

12. ### siddons_sara

Couldn't agree more with both betamale on differentiation and MathsHOD on OFSTED.

Talk of putting Year 9 into mixed ability groups just makes me glaze over.

There are so many whole school initiatives that simply don't fit with maths. It's nice to have some challenging open ended questions for very high attainers and similarly some 'scaffolded' questions for lower attainers but I think the core of the lesson has to be the same for all in maths, anything else and you have a real mess.

13. ### Betamale

Ditto the last three posts.
Im still not sure why generic templates are used for every subject with non specialists passing judgement on practices that simply are often nontransferable.

14. ### bigkidNew commenter

I once had to teach mixed ability from years 7-11 using textbooks rather than SMILE.
It was the worst year of my teaching career.

15. ### weebecka

Hi, yes I think you've misunderstood.

If you get the opportunity to teach mixed ability you just have to learn many strategies for outstanding differentiation very, very fast and these go with with, with whatever you do in the future.

I had to do it because my school got small as it worked towards closure. The students were setted for literacy! I taught proper mixed ability half the time (rich activities taught starting low and going to the stratospheres) and sub-setted at other times, with students able to move between the groups depending on how confident they were with the topic - which of course they can't normally do because we assume they are equally good at all topics which of course they aren't.

It was really, really hard work but it made me a far better teacher and student progress was outstanding.

If all you want is an easy life don't consider this option

I wrote an article about what I did in MT210 if you're interested - see the ATM journal archive - MT210, the synthesis of outcome-led and process-led teaching.

16. ### weebecka

Oh yeah and some students kind of jumped several levels - like they couldn't work at level 6 but they could work at level 8.
By they way my posts are nowt to do with Ofsted! Just to do with how I became expert at differentiating using a wide variety of strategies such as teaching with rich tasks, extended tasks and applied projects and tracking the core syllabus in the background. Some inspectors loved it, some didn't understand it which is pretty disgraceful but what do you expect?

17. ### scentless_apprentice

You'll have to explain this bit.
As for the easy life comment - what's wrong with that? If I could be left to teach my class, with a set of clear objectives for the syllabus, I think I'd be a much better teacher for it.

18. ### strawbsOccasional commenter

And I don't think people "misunderstood" - I think they just gave their opinion that they didn't like mixed ability teaching.

19. ### Betamale

You were losing me prior to this beauty but....
Anyhow, anybody can claim to be an expert in such a field and as more do the ideas will become more and more crazy to the point of where you have level 8s in the same class as level 2s...oh you have.
Teaching and learning is not about who can make to most 'out there' idea to be cool.Its about advancing pupils with the greatest efficiency and effectiveness.