What is Differentiation and Why is it important?

Differentiation ensures that students’ are working at a level appropriate for their ability and that this level is constantly being challenged upwards. Questions should successively infer progression or the development of a learning concept. Differentiated tasks prevent work becoming too easy, which can occur with rote style learning as can be the case with some traditional worksheets and old-style textbooks.

Differentiation is important because it allows students’ learning to be personalised to their specific academic learning needs. Differentiation allows the pace of the lesson to be appropriate for the learner. Differentiation also ensures that there is enough variety in the activity set, thus preventing boredom or indifference on part of the student.

There are four main ways to of differentiate;

  1. Differentiation by choice
  2. Differentiation by task
  3. Differentiation by teacher input
  4. Differentiation by outcome

Differentiation by choice

The student chooses the structure of the question themselves; a simple example is
20 ? 5 = ? use + - x or ÷ instead of the ? and find the answer.

Differentiation by teacher input

This refers to the choices made by the teacher rather than how much guidance the teacher offers;
a simple example is ? x ? = 100, the teacher chooses one of the numbers in the ?, thinking about the level the student is working at they could either choose an integer, a decimal, a fraction, a surd etc.

Differentiation by task

The task itself is inherently differentiated. Cazoom Maths Worksheets provide a good example of this. The level of each exercise is stated at the top so the teacher may differentiate by the task.

Differentiation by outcome

This is when the answer the student provides determines the way the task has been interpreted and therefore the way it has been differentiated for them, a simple example is, the answer is 12, what is the question?

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