As you focus on meeting the needs of all your diverse students, every single one, you will sometimes worry that your advanced kids are losing out, especially as they get through your lessons and new material quickly, so at this time of year you may see them losing engagement.
It’s a consistent challenge. But some gifted and talented teachers I know showed me an easy, 2-step method that works every time!
So try out one of these methods at your teacher table and beyond. You’ll not only challenge your students, you’ll grow them and maintain their excitement for math!
Step 1. Project Based Learning. When they’re not with you at the teacher table, you can engage their higher level thinking and their natural curiosity. In your hands-on math center (or just as an assignment), give them a project to work through that integrates both what they’ve learned and what they’re learning. Make sure everything is connected to a real world problem or situation.
Best of all, you don’t have to create it! Teachers Pay Teachers is dripping with lessons you can use year after year. You can search “math project based learning”. I personally enjoy Performing in Education and Sweet Integrations.
Step 2. Number Talks. Sometimes you feel at a loss when those advanced kiddos are right in front of you. They’re ready to be challenged and you’ve tried everything in your bag of tricks—plus the workbook.
The key to bright minds is to let them dig deep. While the projects above allow them to apply and extend their knowledge, number talks and mathematical discourse help them extend their fundamental understanding of numbers.
A basic number talk consists of posing the problem. You write a problem down. They look at the problem and think (not write) of all the ways to solve the problem. The key here is not allowing them to solve the problem—yet.
Their job is to think of all the ways to solve the problem. They can count off on their fingers all the methods they’ve discovered. WATCH this video that walks you through a numbers talk with whole group to see it in action.
During the number talk, your job is to record the various methods they propose. Engage them in a collaborative discussion using accountable talk and mathematical language. DOWNLOAD this “mathematical discourse” as your guide.
It’s that easy! First, give students the opportunity to become excited again through project-based learning in math. Second, engage them with mathematical discourse and number talks to deepen their understanding.
You’ll see the twinkle in their eyes as their brains grow new neural connections. Don’t lose those bright brains to the monotony of more problems. Enlighten them with your wisdom and mathematical mind!