Tiered Assignments and Assessments in Math

Meet students where they are by providing individualized assignments
5 teachers like this strategy
3:20

About This Strategy

This strategy is designed to help math teachers address specific learning needs for a variety of students by creating tiered assignments for the math classroom.   Each tier will accommodate resources, vary demands, and provide options for demonstrating knowledge in order to build fluency and promote autonomy for each individual student in the math classroom.   Providing students with tiered assignments at their individual skill level allows them to make academic progress from their current level.  Providing tiered assignments for students who have learning differences allows them to complete assignments with greater autonomy, thus reducing the need for teachers and support staff to provide 1:1 help, guidance, and prompting. 

Implementation Steps

  1. Familiarize yourself with the plans for any students that have Individual Education Plans (IEP) or Individualized Learning Plans (ILP) in your math class.   Ensure you understand each student’s individual strengths and abilities, present levels of performance, impact of any disability, learning goals, and any necessary accommodations/modifications. Don’t be afraid to ask a Special Education support teacher, case manager, or an ESL support teacher for help understanding the IEP or ILP.
  2. Select an assignment that supports the learning target for your math lesson. This will serve as the first tier or original assignment. 
  3. Create a second tier by accommodating the original assignment you selected in Step 2 by making structural changes to the assignment or environmental changes in the classroom.  Examples of accommodations include:

    • Using a larger math text

    • Using a different font for math problems

    • Providing more space for working problems

    • Providing lined or graph paper for showing work

    • Creating strategic partners or groupings for students; consult the resources section for support in creating peer groups

    • Creating a Glossary or Word Wall with content vocabulary words. For support, consult the BetterLesson strategy "Interactive, Visual or Language Chunk Word Wall."

    • Creating an alternate mode for demonstrating mastery.

  4. Create a third tier by accommodating either the original assignment (Step 2) or the second tier (Step 3). Some examples of further accommodations include: 

    • Chunking assignments by math skill.  Please refer to the resources for more information regarding chunking assignments in math.

    • Creating Guided Notes for students Please refer to the resources for examples of guided notes in math. 

    • Highlighting key verbs and underlining important information in instructions

    • Providing annotated exemplars, as in the resources section

    • Creating interleaved math problems, as in the resources section

 

EL Modification

English Learners face unique challenges that can be mitigated by providing tiered assignments to address their unique challenges.  English Language Learners may arrive in your classroom speaking and conversationally interacting with their peers, but it is important to remember conversational English is both different and easier to grasp than formal, academic language used in assignments.  Creating tiered versions of assignments that address these specific needs will help students to access the content material while simultaneously learning necessary academic language. 

Modifications: 

  1. Familiarize yourself with the plans for any students that have an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP).   Ensure you understand each student’s individual strengths and abilities and learning goals.  Don’t be afraid to ask an ESL support teacher for help understanding the ILP.  
  2. Create structural/environmental adaptations for the original assignment to support EL students.

    • Create strategic peer groups. When creating groups for EL students,  it may be beneficial to partner a language learner in a group with another student who speaks the same native language and will be able to support a peer who is an EL.  

    • Create a Glossary or Word Wall with context vocabulary words in English and students' native languages.

    • Provide diagrams or glossaries in English.  Have students translate into their native language.

  3. Provide an alternate way for EL students to demonstrate mastery of content. EL students can help you create a library of instructional videos in their native language.  Instead of completing an assignment or worksheet, they can teach the skill in their native language and record the lesson for you.  These videos can be saved for future use; students with EL needs in your future classes can watch these videos for additional help or complete compare/contrast activities to help them engage with content and boost their English Language skills.

Special Education Modification

Students with disabilities cannot be classified into one group with a general set of needs.  Their skills and abilities cover a vast range from significantly lower than your general education students to significantly higher than your general education students.  Creating a library of tiered assignments for each unit you teach will ensure all students, regardless of their abilities, have access to the general education curriculum.  It will also ensure students are able to participate and complete assignments that directly relate to their individual skill level and needs. 

  1. Familiarize yourself with the plans for any students that have Individual Education Plans (IEP).  Ensure you understand each student’s individual strengths and abilities, present levels of performance, impact of any disability, learning goals, and any necessary accommodations/modifications. Don’t be afraid to ask a Special Education support teacher or case manager for help understanding the IEP.
  2. Accommodate  the original assignment by making structural changes to the assignment or environmental changes in the classroom, including:

    • Providing more space for working problems

    • Providing lined or graph paper for showing work

    • Creating strategic peer groups to support the specific disabilities of your students

    • Highlighting key direction verbs and underline important information in word problems. 

    • Creating an alternate mode for demonstrating mastery (i.e. say the answer, use of manipulatives, etc.)

  3. Modify assignment expectations to align with students' IEPs. These modifications might include changing the rigor, intensity, or learning goal. .  (Please note, modifications change the rigor, intensity, or learning goal of the curriculum and therefore must be included in the IEP before you implement them in the classroom.)

    • Reduce rigor

    • Use an alternate curriculum

    • Modify the goals or outcome of the assignment

Tiered Assignments for Distance Learning

Tiered learning activities can help alleviate challenges students are facing in distance learning environments.  They are particularly helpful in hybrid learning situations when a teacher can provide direct instruction in person, but when independent learning activities are conducted remotely.  Providing assignments with accommodations that meet individual student needs helps facilitate autonomy in the distance learning environment because it tailors assignments to meet students at their level. 

Implementation Steps:

  1. Consider grouping students with similar skills and needs into small instructional groups for synchronous learning.  You may provide whole group instruction in person (hybrid model) or through a large group synchronous lesson one day, but meet with small groups of students who are working on the same tier via small group synchronous learning the next day.
  2. Use paras, special education teachers, or ESL teachers to monitor breakout rooms that are focused on specific tiered assignments.
  3. Tech tools can be used to make tiers of activities. For example, if you created an interactive digital variation, you can create an adapted version of your digital activity using some of the concepts listed in the original tiered learning for math strategy (i.e. highlight details, annotated exemplars, etc.).  

    • Many interactive applications listed in the Tech Tools Block below (Kahoot, Peardeck, Quizizz, Desmos, and Edpuzzle) offer self-paced or “student paced” options.  You can duplicate activities you make and create accommodations on the duplicate copy for students who need them. 

    • Consider changing the font for students, such as the font for students with Dyslexia listed in the resources section.

Related Lessons

  • This strategy was used in my Arithmetic Sequence Lesson Plan to create five tiers of assignments to meet the needs of math students who 

    • were working toward the learning target for the lesson, 

    • had the math skills to work toward the learning target, but struggled with multi-step sequential problems

    • students who were able to partially work toward the learning target

    • students who were working toward academic goals related to beginning math skills

    • students who were working toward the level 4 extended learning target

  • This strategy can be used with my Properties of Exponents Lesson Plan because properties of exponents is a critical skill for higher level math and science concepts that is usually presented in curriculum during instruction as separate properties, but presented in the independent practice as multi-step problems requiring students to generalize and apply skills to simplify expressions.