Meeting all students exactly where they are…

anandazBy Z, the math guy

Meeting all students exactly where they are…

…takes a lot of creativity and flexibility, and not just on the part of the teacher. Math instruction can fail students in several ways. For one set of students, much of their willmathenergy goes into keeping up with their classmates. It is challenging for them to maintain a positive self esteem when they find themselves struggling or even worse, failing. For another set of students, instruction is either far beneath their instructional level or the pace is too slow. Either may occur when the class is structured for the “average” student with little accommodation provided for students who master the material with ease or for those who struggle.

In our 5th-7th grade class at Hess Academy, we are working on mathematics skills ranging from double-digit multiplication to solving multi-step linear equations. One of the gifts of this multi-ability, multi-age class is that we have a group of students who are able to help each bigrevealother using a variety of different learning styles. Some students mentor another student, which not only assists the mentee, but also reinforces the learning in the mentor and enhances self-esteem in both. Some students work together as peers, becoming partners in mastering new learning through experimentation and encouragement. Being attentive to ways in which students can help each other adds to the bag of tricks at the teacher’s disposal. Singapore Math’s concrete methods have also proven especially helpful in providing more intuitive computation and problem-solving techniques where classic American methods have often failed our students.  With music, laughter, creativity, teamwork, perseverance, open-mindedness, and hard work, all of our students are growing in their mathematical skills and self-esteem this year, preparing them for every challenge they will face.  If you have found other nontraditional methods that have worked for you, please email them to me at


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