# Differentiated Instruction

I just learned what the phrase "differentiated instruction" means. Jeanette Stein told me on #MathChat that for her, differentiated instruction is

Meeting kids where they are at to take them where they can go.

I love it!

So I read the article Jeanette shared from Teach-ology. Seems differentiated instruction is a fancy term for focusing on the individual students rather than the teacher.

### I've been doing it for years!

The first few semesters I taught math (back in 1996), I would lecture. I mean straight up, lecture. But soon I learned that it wasn't about me.

Over the next 16 years I watched the students. I quit spending so much time and energy on preparing lectures and much more time and energy thinking about the comments and questions I got from the students.

I learned how students get quickly confused by the simplest of things - like solving an equation in one variable with four terms.

I learned that the way something is said is much more important than what the words are.

I learned that many of the "math rules" were merely tricks some clever person thought of as a mnemonic device. And that if these tricks are forced on certain students, they'll likely never understand what's really happening.

The biggest trick/hoax is PEMDAS or the Order of Operations. Other math rules that get highly confusing are the Zero Product Rule and cross-multiplying (a term I personally despise).

And most importantly, I've learned that creating a safe and inquiry based learning environment is the key to differentiated learning.

### And there's more!

In considering my classroom experiences, I'm finding many other instances and examples of differentiated instruction. So this is the first in a series on tactics to improve your own differentiated classroom. Here are the proposed topics/titles:

• Eliminating the Fear - How to Engage Students without Calling on Them
• Show Your Work! - What's up with that?
• Grading in a Differentiated Classroom - Why Teaching Math Is Harder than Giving Birth
• "It's Your Education!" - How to Empower Your Students
• If Shakespeare Taught Math - How to Use Metaphors to Teach Math
• If Picasso Taught Math - How to Use Drawings to Teach Math
• How to Teach Your Students to Think Like a Mathematician

Wow - that's rather ambitious of me, isn't it?

I'll shoot for these once a week and you can find a link to the series (this article) in the sidebar under "Quick References."

If you have any requests or ideas, let me know in the comments. And don't forget to share this series with your PLN on twitter!

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