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    #230497 - 05/11/16 10:23 AM Acceleration vs in class differentiation for math?
    Lepa Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/24/14
    Posts: 104
    Loc: San Francisco, CA
    My son is in kindergarten and he’s very strong in math. He’s at a small STEAM focused private school that has an interesting, project based math program that tends to be about one year ahead of the public schools (and other local private schools). The classes are small (16 kids with two teachers, one of whom is a math/science specialist) and the kids do most of their work in small groups. The teachers track which kids are in the high, middle and low groups and claim to differentiate the kids’ tasks. My son, however, reports that he spends most of his time doing group games and activities with assorted kids (not just with the other “high” kids). They also do some open-ended work, like math talks. The only real differentiation that I’m aware of is giving the “high” kids larger numbers to work with. There could be more; my son doesn’t report much about what happens during the day.

    The math specialist for my son’s class says that his level is higher than any other kids in the class (and, I believe, his grade). She sometimes works one-on-one with him to provide additional attention. She believes that he is being challenged daily but I’m not sure. One thing she has focused on is speeding my son up, which I disagree with as he’s a deep thinker with average processing speed. I don’t think lack of speed is a sign of any fundamental weakness and I think the focus should be on providing challenging concepts. This strikes me as a lack of understanding about how gifted math kids function but I digress.

    Here’s my question. My son has been complaining that math is too easy. He said it’s starting to make him “feel bad.” He even approached the head of school and asked for more challenging math opportunities. This week we asked the teachers about exploring a subject acceleration. The next day they had the head math teacher for first grade meet with my son to start assessing where he is at. I assumed that this was an attempt to gather information to consider an acceleration. Today the teacher emailed and told me that she is still gathering information. She also said that the math in first grade is highly differentiated and that some students are currently working at a third grade level. She said she is gathering information to figure out how to meet my son’s needs next year and to ensure that he will be challenged. I am interpreting this to mean that the school intends to try to differentiate in class instead of doing a subject acceleration.

    On one hand, this sounds good because if my son were to be accelerated he would find himself without any math class in fourth grade. Fifth grade/middle school is far from the elementary school (a couple of miles). Once he gets to fifth grade, the math classes are combined with other grades and kids can work 2-3 years ahead if they are in the “high” group. So maybe in-class differentiation for a couple of years is okay because then he can radically accelerate once he hits fifth grade. On the other hand, my son’s math level is so far above the other kids’ in his class that he doesn’t have any peers who are even close and that’s not ideal, either.

    For what it’s worth, my husband has a Phd in math and he can do extra ‘enrichment” stuff with my son so he’s not in danger of lacking opportunities to do fun math. But I’d prefer that he also receive challenging material during the school day, especially since we are sacrificing to send him to private school.

    I feel like we are at the early stages of gathering information and that we may be able to influence the school’s decision about how to proceed. I’m at a loss about what is best here and hope that some of you will have some valuable perspective.

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    #230514 - 05/11/16 02:50 PM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    Lepa Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/24/14
    Posts: 104
    Loc: San Francisco, CA
    Bumping in case anybody has any advice about whether, in your experience, in-class differentiation is comparable to single subject acceleration.

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    #230516 - 05/11/16 03:27 PM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    Loy58 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/11/13
    Posts: 816
    I would take it one year at a time and not worry about the running out of math, just yet. He may be ready for full grade acceleration by then, or perhaps he could do a single year of independent study...but that is years away.

    The "enrichment model" did not work well for either of my DYS and next year is the first year they will experience single subject acceleration. At this point, we feel it is absolutely needed.

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    #230517 - 05/11/16 03:41 PM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    Quantum2003 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/08/11
    Posts: 1425
    I think that in-class differentiation can be comparable to single subject acceleration, particularly in early elementary. It all depends on the school, on the class, on the teacher, and on your DS. However, it is far more difficult to effectuate. There is really no single right answer and the better approach may change over time. I would take it year by year.

    I have a 7th grader who did not subject accelerate until 2nd grade although he knew intuitively how to multiply/divide in his head ($10 roll divided by 25 cents equals 40 quarters) by K and was very disappointed with the math curriculum. One of my main reasons for waiting was to get him to the point where he was mature enough to travel alone within the building and skilled enough to keep up with the writing requirements inherent in our math curriculum and not be treated as a second-class citizen. I actually requested and would have preferred in-class differentiation but it wasn't an option.

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    #230522 - 05/11/16 07:00 PM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    ConnectingDots Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/06/13
    Posts: 848
    We've not seen in-class differentiation done well yet. I hear it exists. I would ask a lot of questions about how they manage differentiation in the current class where first graders are working at a third grade level. Are they working independently? Do they have some daily instruction? Do they still have to do the first grade and second grade work each day?

    Also, as this develops, it can be helpful if everyone agrees when you (parents and teachers) will meet in the fall to discuss how either solution is working.

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    #230529 - 05/11/16 09:15 PM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    ajinlove Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/20/15
    Posts: 228
    My DS7 is in first grade and started in-class differentiation in third quarter, after he got the DYS qualifying IQ score. It is not working very well. He doesn't like to do the math packet he is given. He'd rather draw, read a book or chat with his friends. He doesn't see the math specialist every day so there is no big push for him. He says it's boring but his teacher said many times he wasn't sure what to do and had hard time getting started on his own. They think the big issue with him may be his limited vocabulary in math preventing him to fully understand the questions. I've asked his room teacher if I could see the math packet so I may be able to figure out why he's not interested in doing these problems. She told me that the math specialist would like to keep it in school. So I really am not sure what he is learning.

    In 2nd grade, he will get into the extended math program for advanced 2nd graders (currently being set up). If he tests really well on the fall MAP test and CogAT, he may have a chance to take the advanced math with the third graders in the currently offered gifted program. I think he would do better with either program since he'll be learning with other kids. However. I'd prefer the 3rd grade math as it is more challenging, which is what we are lacking right now.

    So in my DS case, I think a single subject acceleration would work better than in class differentiation. I think it really depends on the DC, the teachers and learning material.

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    #230532 - 05/12/16 04:45 AM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    Malraux Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 02/21/15
    Posts: 30
    Loc: KY
    I personally remain deeply skeptical of differentiation to address the needs of highly able students for appropriate pacing, difficulty, and instruction. Being "challenged every day" sounds nice, but I prefer the framing of "learning something new every day." Doing basic math facts every day to increase speed is being challenged, but there's obviously a diminishing return of educational value.

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    #230536 - 05/12/16 06:14 AM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Malraux]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4294
    Originally Posted By: Malraux
    I personally remain deeply skeptical of differentiation to address the needs of highly able students for appropriate pacing, difficulty, and instruction. Being "challenged every day" sounds nice, but I prefer the framing of "learning something new every day." Doing basic math facts every day to increase speed is being challenged, but there's obviously a diminishing return of educational value.
    Agreed.

    You may have already read this elsewhere on the forums, but because there are always new readers, I'll link to a couple of posts which some may see as negative but which are important nonetheless.
    1) Differentiation is just a buzzword. It only means something is different... it does not mean that the education is better suited for the child.
    2) Challenges which may close gaps by capping the growth of kids at the top. Yes, some schools actually provide "services" designed to provide equal outcomes for all students, by keeping the top students spinning their wheels with busywork until they are stuck in a rut.

    Although your child is enrolled in a private school, not a public school, and therefore any advocacy would hinge solely on school policy (as opposed to State laws for public schools plus school/district policy), you may which to learn the 5Ws of any customized educational plan or differentiation/challenge introduced into your child's school day experience. Do not settle for buzzwords.

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    #230540 - 05/12/16 06:33 AM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    howdy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/13
    Posts: 279
    I think that, as you describe it, the situation for your son is not too bad, considering it is Kindergarten.

    Looking forward to future plans, I think you might want to keep in mind that the differentiation needs to include actually teaching him new things and it should not be isolating. And yes, he should not have to do all the regular classwork in addition to the more challenging work.

    So sitting apart from the other kids doing a packet of harder work that no one instructed him on -- is not going to work, in my opinion. But first you need to see what they are planning.

    Good luck!


    Edited by howdy (05/12/16 06:34 AM)

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    #230541 - 05/12/16 06:45 AM Re: Acceleration or in class differentiation for math? [Re: Lepa]
    Loy58 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/11/13
    Posts: 816
    I think that differentiated classes within a grade works better than having a teacher CONSISTENTLY have to find time to differentiate within a class. Admittedly, however, you need a big school or many teachers to pull this off. The problems that I've observed with simply asking a teacher to differentiate within a classroom for your child are: VERY hard on teacher, even if very well-intentioned, to point where it almost doesn't happen (or starts OK, but falls apart); teacher never really understands just HOW ADVANCED the child really is - they go in with an "enrichment packet" they think is suitable for a slightly advanced child and never really realize what level the child is actually at; or child ends up working alone which is tough at a young age (and can even be when older) and child starts to feel disengaged or isolated.

    We've experienced all of these issues, unfortunately, over the years. DYS DS7, is currently isolated, but with a better plan for next year and with a great teacher who finally gets him and is working for future acceleration. We've tried enrichment for a couple of years now, and even with really great, well-intentioned teachers, it has just fallen short. Unless they can come up with a class for him, acceleration appears to be his best option right now.

    But every situation is different, of course...

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