You are on page 1of 41

Catering for Individual

Differences
PGDE (Full Time) Mathematics Major

Arthur Lee
Dec, 2009
Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on
S1-5 Mathematics

Learners vary tremendously in their family background,


parental expectation towards their performance,
cognition, learning sequences, motivation towards
learnings, their own perception on performance in
mathematics and their role in the learning process.

These factors constitute the cause and nature of learner


differences. They are variables for each learner and
interact in a complex way. They affect teaching and
learning activities and the quality of learning.

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, Central Curriculum

The secondary mathematics syllabus is structured in three


different parts:
1. the Foundation Part
2. the Whole Syllabus
3. the Enrichment topics

At the primary level, there is a choice of Enrichment topics on top of the


core syllabus.

The syllabus contents are considered with an allowance of about 10% of


the normal school time allocated to mathematics as spare periods.

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, Central Curriculum
an example in the learning unit "Congruence and Similarity" in the MSS dimension

The objectives with asterisk (**) are exemplars of enrichment topics.


The objectives underlined are considered as non-foundation part of the syllabus.

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, School level

◆ Decide the aims and targets of the whole school


mathematics curriculum and at each Key Stage.
◆ Adopt organizational arrangements such as
providing additional lessons to certain students
and ability grouping strategies like streaming,
split class, withdrawal and cross-level subject
setting. (Appropriate measures of flexible
grouping would help reducing labeling effect.)
◆ Appropriately select the depth of treatment of
the learning units that lie outside the
Foundation Part of the Syllabus as the common
core learning contents for all students.

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, School level

◆ Arrange the learning units in a logical sequence


for each year level. This arrangement should
take into consideration
◇ cognitive development and abilities of
students;
◇ affective elements of students;
◇ learning objectives of the learning units and
their inter-relation;
◇ the inter-relation of mathematical learning at
different year levels;
◇ the resources (e.g. no. of periods) available to
mathematics learning at different year levels.
Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, School level

◆ Choose an appropriate textbook and adapt or


produce instructional materials.
◆ Design a wide variety of informal and non-formal
learning activities such as statistical projects, weekly
questions posted in the mathematics bulletin
boards, mathematics books reading scheme, poster
design using transformation of shapes, mathematics
camp, Mathematics Olympiad, etc.
◆ Set up assessment policies that allow the method of
recording and reporting to encourage continuous
effort of students and to provide feedback for
teaching and learning.

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, Classroom level

◆ Diagnosis of students' needs and differences


◇ e.g. by gathering information about their
interests, strengths and weakness. Note also
that results from HK Attainment Test, Basic
Competence Assessment, class-tests and/or
examinations are useful information. Your
own observations in the classroom, their
classwork and homework provide even more
immediate impressions.

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, Classroom level

◆ Variation in level of difficulties and contents


covered
◇ select, adapt or design materials at
appropriate level
◇ give less able students greater sense of
satisfaction and hence greater confidence
◇ give more able students challenges to
cultivate as well as to sustain their interest in
mathematics

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, Classroom level

◆ Variation in questioning techniques


◆ Variation in clues provided in tasks
◆ Variation in approaches in introducing concepts
◆ Variation in using computer packages (e.g.
dynamic objects, spreadsheets, simulation)
◆ Variation in Peer Learning (e.g. various classroom
organization like group work)

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Strategies, Classroom level

◆ Variation in assessment items: Assessment that


would cover various aspects of understanding
and achievements. In particular, when
assessment (ranging from classwork, quizzes, to
tests) does not need to completely match any
other "standard" examinations, it should
encourage a broader scope of comprehension
and a wider spectrum of understanding.
◆ Arousing Learning Motivation (varieties of tasks
and activities including competitions, games,
group discussion, and something extra-
curricular)

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5 Mathematics.
Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
Closer look at some classroom level strategies

Variation in Questioning Techniques


... teachers can ask simple and straightforward
questions to less able students and
comparatively more challenging questions to
more able ones ...

Variation in Clues provided in Tasks


... for the more able students, teachers ask
open-ended questions and provide fewer hints
in the process of solving problems ...

Your comments?

Mathematics Section, Education Department (2001). Catering for Learner Differences: Teaching Package on S1–5
Mathematics. Hong Kong: Education Department.
http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/maths/en/ref_res/MATERIAL/ld_e/LD_e%20index.htm
One thing that people have
in common is that they are
all different.

F. Marton & S. Booth, 1997


Learning and Awareness
Catering for Individual Differences--Building
on Variation
another way
http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/
seeing individual
differences
What is 'Learning Study'

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/learning/e_learn.htm

Theoretical Framework

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/intro/e_intro_m3.htm
Some Beliefs on Catering for Individual
Differences

Difference in learning outcomes is


caused by:
◆ difference in ability
◆ difference in motivation
◆ difference in teaching arrangement
◆ different ways of seeing the object of
learning

Lo, M. L., Pong, W. Y. & Chik, P. P. M. (2005) For each and everyone. Catering for individual differences through
Learning Studies Hong Kong , The HKU Press.
Some Beliefs on Catering for Individual
Differences
The range of ability among normal children should not hinder students from
learning what is intended in the school curriculum. Therefore in catering for
individual differences, the focus is not on the variations in abilities. Rather, the
focus is on the variations in the learning outcomes (what students actually
learnt).

For every worthwhile learning outcome that we can identify, there are also some
critical aspects that can be identified and communicated. In order to help every
student master these learning outcomes, teachers should be clear about the
learning outcomes they wish to achieve in each lesson and the critical aspects
that students must grasp.

Catering for individual differences: helping every (normal) child to learn what is
worthwhile, essential and reasonable for them to learn, given the school
curriculum, and irrespective of their ability.

What prevents students from learning an object of learning in school is not


primarily due to their lack of ability, but mainly due to the incomplete ways of
seeing that they acquired of the object of learning.

Lo, M. L., Pong, W. Y. & Chik, P. P. M. (2005) For each and everyone. Catering for individual differences
through Learning Studies Hong Kong , The HKU Press.
What is 'Learning Study'
The main aim of the project is to establish an infrastructure in schools to facilitate teachers'
professional development by learning from each others, from pupils' feedback and from the
use of the theory of variation, thus improving the quality of teaching and learning.

To realise this objective, we consider the 'Lesson Study Model' which is widely adopted in
Japanese schools as a good method. Participant teachers form subject-based groups, who
among themselves and with the university team meet regularly to carry out a number of
'research lessons'. For each research lesson, they discuss the objects of learning and its
critical features. Together they develop ways to structure the lesson, taking into account the
pupils' varied understandings of the subject matter in identifying the objects of learning.
Some lessons are video-taped to facilitate the review work afterwards and serve as inputs
for another round of study.

Within such a model, we have also introduced an important element which is the use of the
theory of variation (see Theoretical framework). Therefore, we describe our way of
conducting the project as 'Learning Study' so as to distinguish it from the Japanese lesson
study on the one hand; and on the other hand, to highlight our point of departure--how
pupils understand what is to be learnt.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/learning/e_learn.htm
Theoretical Framework
The basic idea of this project is to make use of the variation between pupils'
different abilities and ways of understanding to actually decrease this
variation. Such idea is derived from a learning theory which concerns
variation and learners' structure of awareness (Marton and Booth, 1997;
Bowden and Marton, 1998). The following briefly outlines the three aspects of
variation which we have drawn from the theory of learning and variation to
develop strategies to cope with individual learning differences.

Variation in terms of pupils' understanding of what is taught

Variation in teachers' ways of dealing with particular topics

Variation as a teaching method

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/intro/e_intro_m3.htm
Variation in terms of pupils' understanding of what is taught

A popular view about children's differences in learning is that they have different general abilities
or aptitudes, and hence there are "stronger" and "weaker" pupils. Another popular view is that
children have their own ways of thinking. As a result, if there are forty pupils in the classroom,
there will be forty ways of understanding.

We look at this differently, not because these two viewpoints do not carry any truth, but because
they do not provide a good point of departure for addressing the issue. In contrast, we wish to
focus on the 'object of learning', by which we mean the knowledge and skills that we hope the
pupils will develop; we wish to focus on what is taught and how it is made sense of by the pupils.

Our point of departure is that children understand what they are supposed to learn in a limited
number of different ways. Our research shows that teachers who pay close attention to such
differences (or variation) are better able to bring about meaningful learning for their pupils.
Children learn better not only because they become more focused on the object of learning, but
also because they are exposed to the different ways their classmates deal with or understand the
same content.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/intro/e_intro_m3.htm
Variation in teachers' ways of dealing with particular topics

Teachers have daily encounters with pupils, and from these they build up a bank
of knowledge about the different ways pupils deal with particular concepts or
phenomena, as well as a working knowledge of how to handle these differences.
This knowledge is so powerful and becomes part of their daily teaching that
sometimes it is unnoticed by the teachers themselves.
We view such knowledge as extremely valuable. By knowing in advance the prior
knowledge and understandings of the pupils, we can be more effective in helping
pupils to learn what is intended.
Therefore, instead of letting this knowledge remain at the back of the teacher's
mind, it should be identified, sharpened, and systematically reflected upon, and
above all, shared with other teachers.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/intro/e_intro_m3.htm
Variation as a teaching method

When we notice that some pupils have difficulties with their learning, it means that these pupils have
not grasped the critical features of what has to be learnt. To cater for individual differences, the
teacher should identify these critical features and help pupils to focus on them. This can be done by
means of variation, i.e. using examples, non-examples, multiple representations, etc to give
prominence to what is and what is not critical to the understanding of a particular object. For
instance, the concept of having the same digit added on to itself for a number of times is critical to
the understanding of multiplication, whereas the recitation of multiplication table without
explanation is not.

In our everyday experience, we cannot focus on everything at the same time. While some are taken
for granted, some others are held in focal awareness. Features that are taken for granted or in the
background are only discerned when they vary (Bowden & Marton, 1998, Marton & Booth, 1997).
For example, a bird in the tree may not be noticed until it flies away and its movement catches the
eye of the observer.

Seen from this light, what is varied and what remains unchanged during the lesson is of decisive
importance in determining how effective the lesson is.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/intro/e_intro_m3.htm
Learning Studies in Mathematics

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
P.4 Mathematics lesson
on 'Perimeter and Area'
L e a r nin g Stu d y 5:
P. 4 M a t h e m a t i c s l e s s o n o n ‘ P e r i m e t e r a n d A r e a ’

Allen Leung

Duration

The second research period was from 19th January to 22nd June 2001, during which
thirteen meetings were held after school hours.

Stage I: Incubation of ideas

During the first meeting, teachers promptly determined that they would like to do
a research lesson on ‘area and perimeter’. The researchers were rather surprised by their
decision, as ‘area and perimeter’ appeared to be quite a simple concept. However, the
teachers were able to show the researchers that the students had difficulties in
understanding this concept for the following reasons:

Students’ difficulties/ misconceptions demonstrated in learning the topic

The teachers noticed that students often mixed up the formulas for area and
perimeter, as well as their measuring units. Moreover, most students were able to solve
problems on ‘area’ or ‘perimeter’ easily, but they had great difficulties answering
questions that involved both concepts, such as questions in the Hong Kong Attainment
Test related to ‘area and perimeter’ on which most students scored poorly. Students at
P.5 and P.6 appeared to share similar problems as well. Therefore, the teachers were
eager to help students to solve this problem as early as possible, hence giving students a
good foundation for future studies.

In the next meeting, discussions were centred on identifying students’ differences


in understanding, as well as their common misconceptions concerning the topic, which
both the researchers and the teachers agreed to be very crucial for mapping out the
teaching plan.

Students’ differences in understanding ‘area and perimeter’

(a) Students with no concepts of ‘area and perimeter’:


These were students who appeared to have not even a superficial

1
P.4 Mathematics lesson on 'Perimeter and Area'

Students' difficulties / misconceptions (general)

The teachers noticed that students often mixed up the


formulas for area and perimeter, as well as their
measuring units. Moreover, most students were able to
solve problems on ʻareaʼ or ʻperimeterʼ easily, but they
had great difficulties answering questions that involved
both concepts, such as questions in the Hong Kong
Attainment Test related to ʻarea and perimeterʼ on which
most students scored poorly. Students at P.5 and P.6
appeared to share similar problems as well.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
P.4 Mathematics lesson on 'Perimeter and Area'

Students' difficulties / misconceptions


Students thought that the perimeter of a rectangle should
be equal to the length times the width even though they
knew that this was the formula for area.

Students tended to believe that the longer the perimeter,


the larger the area of a rectangle becomes; and as the
shape of the rectangle changes, so does the area.

Some students also believed that if the perimeter of a


rectangle is doubled, the area would also be doubled. In
other words, they thought that the perimeter and the area
usually increase at the same rate.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
P.4 Mathematics lesson on 'Perimeter and Area'

A Gap in Curriculum

... 'area' and 'perimeter' were never taught together in


the curriculum, rather, they were treated as two
different topics.

... teachers were thinking of teaching these two


concepts together in the hope of providing students
with an opportunity to learn through comparison and
contradiction. Moreover, they believe that 'area and
perimeter' should be taught along with other related
topics, such as the characteristics of polygons.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
P.4 Mathematics lesson on 'Perimeter and Area'

Development of Lesson Plan

In the subsequent meetings, teachers came to realize that


the reason for their studentsʼ difficulty in grasping the basic
concepts of perimeter and area might lie in the fact that
these concepts were usually 'definedʼ by the teachers via
formulae rather than by using studentsʼ intuitions of space
and measurement. Some teachers pointed out that students
often confused the two formulae by using them
interchangeably. This might indicate that the concepts of
perimeter and area are purely symbolic for students,
missing out the primitive geometrical elements.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
P.4 Mathematics lesson on 'Perimeter and Area'

Development of Lesson Plan

Discover pattern(s) for rectangles with the same


perimeter, different areas:
◆ The school is planning to build a
rectangular fishpond with a fixed amount
of wiring to surround its shape. What
dimensions would give the largest
fishpond?
◆ Students will be grouped and given pieces
of unit-square to construct their rectangular
fishponds. They will be asked to count the
number of unit-square used.
http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
P.4 Mathematics lesson on 'Perimeter and Area'

Development of Lesson Plan

Discover pattern(s) for rectangles with the same


area, different perimeters:
◆ What is the least amount of wiring needed
(hence the most economical) to surround a
fishpond with a given area?
◆ Students will be grouped and given pieces
of unit-square to construct their
rectangular fishponds. They will be asked
to count the number of units that give the
perimeter.

http://iediis4.ied.edu.hk/cidv/e_front.asp?Open=2
Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics)
The Open-ended Questions
Examples of open-ended
questions and samples of
students' work can be found in
this booklet.

It is prepared by the
Mathematics Education section
of EDB and distributed to
schools in 2003.

Besides assessment, how can


this type of questions be used
in our teaching.
Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics) The Open-ended Questions
Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics) The Open-ended Questions
Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics) The Open-ended Questions
(b) their relations
are twice of x plus 1

Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics) The Open-ended Questions


(b) for each pair of numbers,
their difference is a multiple of 5

Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics) The Open-ended Questions


Assessment for Learning (Secondary Mathematics) The Open-ended Questions
Low attaining students can think mathematically

Failure in mathematics ... can be a result of


affective issues, disrupted education and
specific learning difficulties. ... can also be due
to lack of development in the ways of thinking
about mathematics which come naturally to
those who, hence, succeed. Often, however,
support for weaker students focuses on rules,
techniques and procedures - sometimes called
the 'basics' of mathematics.

Watson, A. (2005) In Houssart, J., Roaf, C., & Watson, A. (2005). Supporting mathematical thinking. London: David Fulton.
(Chapter 2)
Low attaining students can think mathematically
Emphasis might be on recall and application, yet these
learners have not remembered and may not recognise
situations as familiar ones in which to apply their
knowledge. Little emphasis is generally given to helping
them develop ways of thinking which may improve future
learning. Little help is given them to construct complex
understanding which provides the context for recall and
application of procedures. Little attention is given to
building on pupils' existing understanding and mental
images. Currently, the materials provided to schools for
those 'falling behind' largely fit this description (that is,
rules, techniques and procedures), though of course they
may be imaginatively used by teachers to create more
challenging lessons.

Watson, A. (2005) In Houssart, J., Roaf, C., & Watson, A. (2005). Supporting mathematical thinking. London: David Fulton.
(Chapter 2)
Watson, A. (2006)

... offer a more accessible and functional language about


doing mathematics, and show that learners in a very
disadvantaged group were all able to demonstrate
mathematical ways of thinking. This contrasts with 'normal'
practices in which low-attaining learners are taught
simplified mathematics.

... argue for a new mindset based on proficiencies of thinking


rather than deficiencies of knowledge; thinking abilities
ought to be nurtured, rather than left to atrophy while
focusing on mundane content. Nurturing mathematical
thinking is a job requiring skills and techniques which come
from a structural understanding of mathematics.

Watson, A. (2006). Raising achievement in secondary mathematics. Maidenhead: Open University Press. p.102
'Boring' lessons
Observation of many mathematics lessons aimed at low-attaining
learners ... confirms that many such lessons frequently deal with
simplified mathematics, broken down into step-by-step
processes, often in short chunks, or packed with practical
features such as colouring in, cutting out, tidying up and so on.
Typical arguments for this approach are persuasive and
commonplace. For example, it is said that learners who cannot
concentrate for long periods need frequent changes of task; they
grow bored if you do not change the topic every lesson; they need
activity which uses their energy because many are so-called
'kinaesthetic' learners; they need the quick success which comes
from getting things right easily; and so on. The irony of these
arguments is that if you follow these guidelines low attainment is
the inevitable results, as well as the reason. It is simply
impossible to learn mathematics if one is constantly changing
topic, or task, or doing related but irrelevant tasks, or only doing
the easy bits, or being praised for trivial performance.
Watson, A. (2006). Raising achievement in secondary mathematics. Maidenhead: Open University Press. p.103
'Boring' lessons

A problem with a fragmented, mechanistic approach to


teaching mathematics is that learners who find mathematics
hard are thus often taught in ways which make it hardest for
them to learn it. Simultaneously, students who get stuck at
the lower levels of the National Curriculum in secondary
school have to churn through content requiring a high level
of accuracy and technical recall, while peers are doing work
which is much more interesting and in which technical
inaccuracies such as minor algebraic mistakes, dropped
negative signs, and forgotten multiples are tolerated as less
important than overall conceptual understanding.

Watson, A. (2006). Raising achievement in secondary mathematics. Maidenhead: Open University Press. p.103