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6 Steps to Making Math Personal—Tech Facilitates It, Teachers Facilitate It

Andrea Slavin, who has been teaching for ten years, nevertheless finds herself battling the calendar as she tries to keep her kids on track.

She’ll be the first to say that changing the method she’d been teaching for a decade wasn’t easy.

Slavin, who teaches at the Constantine Academy of Sciences, a K-8 public school in Calgary, Alberta, says, “We were always on someone else’s speed, not our students’ pace.” Because most lessons were delivered to the entire class, Slavin had to constantly look for ways to assist the children who were struggling. “It was difficult to distinguish because it was difficult to find the time to return,” she explains.

Today, children in ‘s third-grade class work at their own pace to complete addition, multiplication, and division assignments. Some students move rapidly through lessons, while others are given the time they need to review and practise essential ideas until they are ready to move on. Even the pupils that struggle the most, according to Slavin, are on grade level. She explains, “They’re still doing what everyone else is doing, just at a different speed.” “They will be able to move up since they have been exposed to grade-level standards and content.”

These shifts have been fueled by technological advancements. Zearn Math, which blends online student lessons and activities with in-person small-group coaching, has just replaced Bella Romero’s traditional math curriculum. Personalized learning at the Calgary school, however, required more than just computers and software. It also necessitated a significant shift in what Slavin and her colleagues perform on a daily basis in the classroom.

She’ll be the first to say that changing the method she’d been teaching for a decade wasn’t easy. Instead than working with large groups of pupils, Slavin now works with one or two pupils at a time. She creates fresh station activities every day and monitors how well students understand what they’re learning in real time.

I was intrigued by how teachers were able to use technology to tailor lessons while still dealing with pupils one-on-one and keeping the full class on track.

Slavin explains, “I’m a fairly organised instructor who enjoys structure and processes.” “I can’t do it anymore since I’m altering everything every day.”

Even the most forward-thinking instructors may find it difficult to make these kinds of changes. However, when I visited high school this spring, I was amazed by how teachers were able to use technology to tailor instruction while still working directly with pupils and keeping the entire class on pace. What Slavin and her colleagues are doing well is this:

  1. Adaptability. School management sketched out how they planned to use Zearn to differentiate instruction in broad strokes, but instructors were free to use the technology in whichever way worked best for them. Different grade-level teams, according to Slavin, have evolved their own techniques to organising and establishing learning stations to supplement student screen time. “You have to go through it yourself because it is such a mental shift,” she explains. “We needed ownership in order to explore new things.”
  2. Using a combination of technology and conventional teaching methods. Slavin’s class divides its ninety-minute math blocks evenly between Zearn time and small-group instruction and practise, with half of the class online at any given moment. Workbooks and other non-tech tasks are synchronised with online work, according to Zearn, which increases information transfer.
  3. Dedication. Slavin had previously attempted to deploy individualised learning tools as a supplement, but the technology had mostly served as an add-on to the existing curriculum. All student activities—computer, small group, and independent—were focused on the same goals when Zearn was chosen as the school’s math curriculum. (The Zearn programme is based on the EngageNY/ Eureka Math programme.)

This is the first time in my 10 years of teaching that I’ve been able to satisfy the demands of those high [performing] students without the assistance of the GT teacher.

  1. Individualization. According to Slavin, Zearn adjusts each student’s activities based on his or her success. “A lot of students are still working on addition and subtraction,” she explains. They have the “opportunity to work at their own pace” as they progress through the curriculum. Importantly, high-achieving students are permitted to advance and work at a higher level. “This is the first time in my ten years of teaching that I’ve been able to address the needs of those high-achieving students without the assistance of the GT [gifted and talented] teacher,” Slavin adds.
  2. Information. Slavin found the volume of data created by Zearn daunting at first, mirroring what we’ve heard from teachers all over the world. She and her coworkers now use the program’s success reports on a daily basis to prepare small-group instruction and stations for the following courses. Furthermore, Slavin receives alerts throughout class time, allowing her to assist immediately if her iPad detects that a student has struggled with the same question many times. Even so, knowing how to intervene requires her particular understanding of each pupil. This could be having a student view a video lecture again because she wasn’t paying attention, or leading a student through the process until he understands a vital topic.
  3. Preparation. Teachers at each grade level are given time each day to meet, look over data, and plan for the next lesson, which is especially important when preparing small-group activities, according to Slavin. She continues, “We’re not planning for 26 kids any longer; we’re planning for one or two kids at a time and how we’re going to target them.”

Finally, Slavin claims that using technology to tailor learning for her pupils has helped her better fulfil their needs when she is not using it. She claims that it has aided her teaching by allowing her to be more flexible.

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