Differentiated Math Materials and Flexibility in the Classroom

Walking into the all day kindergarten class at Washington Elementary School you notice many colorful flexible chairs and tables in the large, sunny room. Ms. Weisheit works with 26 children; many are English Language Learners and many without a preschool experience. This past school year she received grant funding from the Student Excellence Foundation to implement a guided math center in her classroom.

A guided math center is one in which students work in small groups with hands-on materials, allowing them to learn at their own pace.  Students learn at different rates and placing students in small groups benefits all learners.  The schools math coach and Ms. Weisheit have seen significant improvements in students’ understanding of number concepts since the guided math center was implemented.

Tables that allow students to sit facing each other in small groups make this possible. Studies show that when students are engaged with hands-on projects, collaborating with others, they learn the information more thoroughly and for the long term. With the guided math center, it is easy for the teacher to assess each student’s learning level and change the groups as needed.

Additionally, the ability to move and wiggle are key factors in teaching 5 year olds.  With flexible chairs, they get the sensory input they need so they can better focus their attention on math and learning.  “Fidgeting in your chair” allows children to feel comfortable in their learning environment and thus allows them to focus on what Ms. Weisheit refers to as “whole body learning”.

The principal of Washington, Jennifer Craig and CUSD200 school board member, Chris Crabtree visited the classroom. Both were extremely pleased to see students at different learning levels all using the same materials, in different ways, but all learning math in a fun and engaging way.

The Student Excellence Foundation thanks Ms. Weisheit for going the extra mile for her students and implementing this grant in her classroom.  Flexible furnishings AND hands-on materials foster collaborative learning. Additionally, they help students build a strong essential math foundation for their future school years.

Do you know a Community School District 200 educator who would like to apply for a Student Excellence Grant? The Foundation offers a Fall and a Spring grant cycle each year. Please feel free to share information regarding grant procedures with any District 200 educator. Classroom teachers, administrators, LLC Directors: any staff member with student contact is eligible to apply!

To read about other grants that have been provided to educators, click here.