Differentiation is both a complex concept and a critical tool to meet the needs of today’s learners. At times, I have seen the complexity overwhelm a teacher to the point of frustration. Teachers will tell me it is just too much, and they are returning to the whole group instruction model that they used before.
While front-of-the-room learning isn’t a bad concept, it is difficult knowing that all of your students are not at the same place and you can’t do anything to help all the differing levels. Technology has helped change this—especially in classrooms with a 1:1 model. With a device in the hands of each student, teachers can more easily differentiate to meet the needs of the individuals.
So when it comes to math, where is a teacher to start? Here is a list that touches on a few of the major players in the market—each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of these are connected to large textbook companies, while some are more independently operated. If you are seriously considering the time and money needed to invest in one of these, here is a starting point for your research:
Advantages: Front Row is aligned with Common Core and includes every standard from K-8, as well as an ELA component. It is comprehensive and builds from one skill to the next. It embeds videos from sites like LearnZillion and Kahn Academy that allow students to learn independently.
Disadvantages: It takes the students through each standard fairly slowly, so progress may be gradual if only limited time is allowed for the program.
Cost: There is a limited free classroom version that is easy to use. For expanded lessons, assessments, and data, there is also a school-wide paid version available.
Advantages: As part of the Amazon company, TenMarks is technologically great. It covers math curriculum through high school and has inquiry-based lessons that take students to higher levels.
Disadvantages: The free version offers much less than the free versions of the other apps, and no assessments are included. Typically, a purchase is for more than just one classroom, so as an individual teacher, it can be harder to experiment with and try than other options.
Cost: There is a free version (see above), as well as three levels of paid options. Overall, this is a higher price point than others, but possibly worth it depending on the level of use you are seeking.
Advantages: MobyMax is very engaging and fun for students, with lessons that teachers can post on their IWB to use for whole class instruction. It is aligned with Common Core, and also contains an ELA component.
Disadvantages: It is pretty direct and doesn’t contain many higher-level problems. Students can accelerate through the program, but only at application-level problems.
Cost: It is paid, but very reasonable compared to other players in the market. There is also a limited free version available.
Advantages: This program offers assessments for any math standard. IXL is organized in a logical manner that times the student, tracks their growth, and ensures mastery before the student can move on. There are not just ELA portions and assessments—science and social studies are included now as well. This can be used for both summative assessment and progress monitoring for students.
Disadvantages: Because it is very assessment centered, the “teaching” component isn’t there like some of the other apps. The assessment part is great, but limiting.
Cost: Cost was based on per pupil usage upon my last contact, and it was pretty reasonable for implementing in a classroom or school.
Advantages: AM has been around for a number of years, so it has a longer proven track record. It is a part of the Renaissance company—which created Accelerated Reader—and will be easy to navigate if you are already familiar with AR. The reports and data are exceptional and give great information.
Disadvantages: There is a lot to it, which is an advantage if you are well trained. It isn’t quite as simple as some of the other options, which makes it a little harder to use.
Cost: There is no free version. Contact the company for a quote.
The best way to really familiarize yourself with the benefits and costs of each of these is to see them in action. I would recommend seeking out schools that use these tools to hear their feedback on how well they work to differentiate in the classroom. It is also important to contact a sales rep to find out if classroom or individual student rates are an option.
These and many other tools can allow teachers to meet the needs of the ever-changing learner, especially in the area of math. Want more math resources? Check out the newest math lessons on the home page of MimioConnect, an online lesson-sharing community for teachers, by teachers.