Why Differentiated Choice in Math is so Important

Here I go again with more passionate ramblings, this time about differentiated choice in math, in my junior classroom.

Provide your students with Differentiated Choice in Math

If you have read any of my other blogs, you will know that I LOVE math. You may also know about my middle school math rules. These are not just things that I like to do, but instead are hard rules that should be in each middle school math classroom. My third rule: always include differentiated choice!

Differentiated choice in math

No matter how you choose to teach your students the lesson (I suggest digitally – one of my math rules) and how you choose to give them practice (I suggest math centers – another one of my math rules), you will need to give students some sort of performance task.

This is a good opportunity to have your students really reflect on their learning. A reflection that will help them to choose a levelled task that matches their understanding at that moment in time.

What does differentiated choice look like?

I provide my students with three choices (with fun names that they enjoy):

  1. I’m still learning, but I will give it a try
  2. I’ve got this
  3. I’m here for a challenge

Check out this FREE rounding sample lesson and activity set for an example of my differentiated choice problem solving tasks.

The benefits of giving your middle school students differentiated choice in math

This is similar to the old  ‘put a paint swatch of red, green or yellow on your desk to indicate how you are feeling’, but with way more action. Students actually get to apply what they think is their level of understanding and change if necessary (too hard, level down; too easy, level up).



Through their choice, you can tell how each student feels about themselves as a learner and whether they have understood their learning strengths and needs.

Guides your lessons

By knowing how many students picked what level, we are able to make purposeful decisions for our instruction.

Develop Autonomy (independent critical thinking)

Most importantly, differentiated choice develops students who are confident, independent learners who can make choices for themselves to build on their learning, not ones that rely on teachers for feedback to take action.

The importance of Differentiated choice

Though it may be hard to keep our opinions to ourselves, we must be careful not to make this decision for them, even if we think the level is too hard. When we make this decision for our students, we are making assumptions about their abilities and not giving them a chance to go further. AKA, streaming. Remember, we are looking to build confidence, not squash it!

I try to give my students this type of choice once per unit. This gives them a chance to show what they know in a way that makes sense to them. It also gives me a chance to understand how everyone is feeling before the post assessment (an important part of the math process to help students see their growth).

Well that’s it, you now know another one of my passions:

Choose your own adventure math :)

Offer differentiated choice for performance tasks in middle school

Offering differentiated choice for my performance tasks is rule # 3 of my 5 junior grade math rules! Check out the other 4 here.

1 Passionate Teacher's math rules for the junior grade classroom