Making sure we cater for all learners in our Maths classroom can be tricky, so today, I am going to help you differentiate maths games. Differentiation is a learnt skill, and one experienced teachers make look easy. One of the hardest things is keeping track of which student is at what level for each maths topic because we all know it changes constantly. One of the easiest ways to differentiate is to change the maths warm up you are doing to suit all students. It starts your maths lessons off with a bang and engages all students in their learning.
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Why it is Important to Differentiate Maths Games
Catering for all learners through differentiation should be central to all our teaching practices. There is no point having students play a game adding numbers to 10, if they don’t know their numbers yet. Conversely, students who can automatically add numbers to 10 without thinking, need to be extended.
Why we should differentiate is simple – there is no one size fits all when it comes to Maths. Every learner is bringing in different skills and understandings into your class. Work that is too hard is frustrating for our students. Work that is too easy is boring. We absolutely don’t want to leave children behind, by moving through work, faster than what they are able to understand. And we always want to make sure we are challenging those students who need to be.
I love using maths games in my classroom because there are so many different ways to differentiate to meet the needs of the students. That being said, not every game needs to be differentiated.
Easy ways to Differentiate Maths Lessons
Listed below are the main ways I differentiate Maths Games (and Maths lessons where appropriate). As you become more confident with the concept of differentiation, you will be able to do it quickly and as second nature.
Differentiation Through Dice
This is perfect for those games like race to 100 where some could be race to 20 (6-sided dice), some race to 100 (10-sided dice) and others race to 200 (2 x 10-sided dice). A very simple way to change a game to suit the needs of all learners.
Differentiation Through Game Boards
To save time, find maths games with game boards at different levels. Eg. one group has single digits, another addition of single digits, and the last addition of double digits. If using a 100s chart as your base, cover up numbers past 20 or 50 using post it notes to help students concentrate on the numbers they need to use without getting overwhelmed. An easy way to differentiate without having to create a new resource.
Changing the Numbers or Variables
This is a very simple way to differentiate. One group are working with 1-digit numbers, the majority working with 2-digit numbers and another group at 3-digit numbers. Or one group are working with numbers to 20, another 50 and the final group 100. Your goal is to not overwhelm the students, work in their learning range and help them build their skills.
Students Using Manipulatives or No Manipulatives
Some students may need counters, blocks, 100s charts and even fingers when playing games. Others may not need them. Always have these resources available for those students who need and want them. Some students may need to draw pictures, others may be able to work out problems in their head. We know all children learn differently and need to expose students to various ways of solving problems so they can choose the one best suited to their needs.
Adding a Challenge or Extension Activity
At the end of the game, some students might have an extra challenge like add all the numbers together. Or double all your numbers and see what your new answer might be. Find the difference between your score and your partners score. Encouraging higher order thinking and setting the bar that bit higher for those who need it.
Sometimes students will be in streamed groups for maths games. Other times you may pair two students together where one can support and challenge the other student. Consider the maths game, your learning intention and goals and the best way to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn when deciding what groups students will need to work in.
Click here to download a copy of my Differentiation Poster – keep it handy when you are lesson planning so you can refer to it!
Find out more about my favourite games to play in your classroom on my Maths Games page.
Read more about Differentiation in this article – Differentiation – how to cater for your class without driving yourself nuts
As always, send me an email or DM me on instagram if you have any questions!