Tag Archives: differentiation

Twice Exceptional and Neurodiversity

In his 1992 trip to Australia, President HW Bush gave the backwards V for victory sign. That happens to be the middle finger in Australia.

hw and v for victory

This story parallels what we encounter in special education. Several people may encounter the same idea, image, curriculum objective, lesson etc. but have a totally different perspective (see photo below).

blind men and elephant

This is certainly true for individuals with autism and is true for students who are twice exceptional.

To meet the needs of such students we must work from their perspective and not ours. We must meet their needs. We must first take inventory of our bias and our subjectivity in how we perceive students, learning, doing math work etc. Here is a site, Different Brains, that I have not fully investigated but that looks interesting and important.

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Basic Skills Older Students

A widespread problem at the secondary level is addressing basic skills deficiencies – gaps from elementary school. For example, I often encounter students in algebra 1 or even higher level math who cannot compute problems like 5÷2. Often the challenges arise from learned helplessness developed over time.

How do we address this in the time allotted to teach a full secondary level math course? We cannot devote class instruction time to teach division and decimals. If we simply allow calculator use we continue to reinforce the learned helplessness.

I offer a 2 part suggestion.

  1. Periodically use chunks of class time allocated for differentiation. I provide a manilla folder to each student (below left) with an individualized agenda (below right, which shows 3 s agendas with names redacted at the top). Students identified through assessment as having deficits in basic skills can be provided related instruction, as scheduled in their agenda. Other students can work on identified gaps in the current course or work on SAT problems or other enrichment type of activities.
  2. Provide instruction on basic skills that is meaningful and is also provided in a timely fashion. For example, I had an algebra 2 student who had to compute 5÷2 in a problem and immediately reached for his calculator. I stopped him and presented the following on the board (below). In a 30 second conversation he quickly computed 4 ÷ 2 and then 1 ÷ 2. He appeared to understand the answer and this was largely because it was in a context he intuitively understood. This also provided him immediate feedback on how to address his deficit (likely partially a learned behavior). The initial instruction in a differentiation setting would be similar.

2018-12-20 11.20.25

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Making Formative Assessment Formative

strategic practice follow up to FA

The photo at the top shows a portion of a cumulative formative assessment for a student in algebra 1 part 1. At the bottom is a handout with problems aligned with the formative assessment. A copy is made for each student and the student is assigned (using highlighting) problems on this follow up handout that are aligned with problems missed on the assessment. This allows for differentiation and formative assessment for the whole class – not an easy task.  (Note: in this post the samples are not for the same student.)

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Streamlining Differentiation

Photo below shows a grid I use to identify the daily activities for my 12 high school Consumer Math students (all with IEPs) in an 86 minute block.IMAG3910

Our daily agenda is comprised of a warm up puzzle (to get them settled and to allow me to coordinate with the other adults – between 2 and 4) and two rounds of activities. Each column is used for a student. The “C” indicates computer use (we use IXL Math mostly and have 4 computers in the room) and the colors indicate the adult supervising.

Each student has a manilla folder which contains all handouts needed, including the daily puzzle, and the IXL modules to complete taped to the inside front cover.


In a given day we may have different students counting nickels and pennies, identifying coins, identifying bills needed to pay a given price, computing sales tax and total price and creating a monthly budget on Power Point, with photos. The system allows me to track the many details.

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