Small Steps for Differentiation: Tier It!

I’m still searching for ways to differentiate in small ways that take just a second or two. An activity that is tiered is something that is leveled differently. A true tiered activity means that there are two (or sometimes more) options that account for a different level of thinking.  Not everything can be tiered, but some basic math skills can be tiered quite easily. Here is an example.

I saw this post on Pinterest the other day for a primary classroom. So easy and so creative!

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This is an awesome activity for students that are just starting out with numbers and subtilizing.  But what about that small group of kids that the K-1 teacher doesn’t have time to differentiate for? Well, I think that the answer is all about having the right materials, in this case more advanced dominoes. I pulled this together for my kindergartener at home and we had a blast doing it.  (Hello 20 minutes of math play!)


I think if we systematically think about what the next “level” of some of those basic math skills are, we can slowly incorporate the correct materials into our centers, our assignments and our games. In this way we ensure all students are making growth!


Even and Odd: The Importance of Conceptual Understanding

I can’t tell you how many times I learn through the eyes of my five year old.  She asks amazing questions, especially when it comes to numbers.  While we were doing some daily math play today, I thought about introducing her to the concept of even and odd numbers.  I was taught even and odd by being told to memorize the numbers: 2,4,6,8.  As a tiny child I don’t think I truly understood why a number was even vs. odd.

So we built the numbers 1-10 (in hindsight I wish I had included zero) with unifix cubes. Then I told her to put them in pairs. We put the pairs together, and lined everything up. During this process she was uncomfortable whenever one was left over, and wanted to pair it up with one from another number set! This is how it looked once we had it all situated.

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Then I asked her what she noticed.

“There is ‘ones’ all by itself!”

We pointed out which numbers had an “odd one out” as I put it. That was when I introduced the words odd and even.  I think it is essential to introduce the vocabulary to kids after they have explored the concept, so that they have a way to name what it is they are seeing.

She then noticed that every other number was odd.  So we looked at and extended the pattern: odd, even, odd, even….until we got to the 10. I then asked her what she thought 11 would be, odd or even?  She shouted out “odd!” without even thinking about it.

I still have a few third graders that are struggling with this concept (can you even believe that?). I am going to try to see if this could help them understand this very basic concept.


Math Play: 20 Minutes a Day

I really think it is amazing that as a society we have really been pushing new parents to read to their children for 20 minutes a day.  We all know that this helps a child in a myriad of ways to become better speakers, writers and readers.  I am blessed with a five year old that learned to read completely on her own at age 4, and I believe that reading to her every day of her life has been the reason this happened.  The cool thing was, we didn’t have to teach her to read, it just happened on it’s own (trust me, we were shocked and humbled by this development!).  Whether that is the norm or not, it got me thinking about math.

Why don’t we as a society promote 20 minutes of math play each day, the same way we promote reading? Imagine if children could authentically develop number sense from an early age by counting or playing with numbers DAILY. I bet we wouldn’t see as many students struggling with some of the simplest concepts like even vs. odd. I still have a few third graders who aren’t sure of the difference!

This is my daughter “building” numbers today. All we needed was a little paper and some unifix cubes which you can pick up at any educator supply store. I want her to see that numbers aren’t really all that abstract.  We’ll be adding many different number representations to our papers each day.

Building Numbers

I plan to add math play to my 5 year old’s day, the same way we read each day.  If you already do something like this, I hope you can share some of your activities with me!

Last, this also gets me thinking about my third graders. Is there a way that I can have math play be homework? Hmmm….I’m on it!