Today’s middle school mathematics classrooms are marked by increasing cognitive diversity. Traditional responses to cognitive diversity are tracked classes that contribute to opportunity gaps and can result in achievement gaps. Differentiating instruction (DI) is a novel but untested response to cognitive diversity, in which teachers proactively plan to adapt pedagogical activities to address individual students’ needs in an effort to maximize learning for all students. This paper reports on this question: How did pedagogical activities facilitate and impede differentiating mathematics instruction for middle school students in an after school design experiment? The data comes from an 18-episode experiment with nine cognitively diverse seventh- and eighth-grade students, focusing on four episodes in which students worked on representing multiplicative relationships among quantitative unknowns. Analysis revealed two pedagogical activities that facilitated DI and three that both facilitated and impeded it.
Session Type: Brief Research Report