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Recontextualisation and differentiation of existing units

Students in any class will come to learning tasks with a range of readiness, in mathematics and in other areas such as spoken and written language, and with a range of interests and backgrounds. Adaptation of the context and content of these units of work to meet the diverse needs of students is strongly recommended.

Contexts that support some students to associate mathematics with their own lives will be unfamiliar to other students. For example, using travel to school for statistical investigation may work well in urban schools but not in rural schools. Often the context of a unit can be easily changed to more closely match students’ experiences and interests, for example a unit on frogs in ponds might be changed to a unit of Monarch caterpillars on swan plants. Existing unit contexts can also be personalised to make them more relevant to students, for example, an unnamed giant’s footprint might become that of a character from a well-known legend. Contexts outside their direct experiences can also be valuable for students. For example, the star cluster, Matariki, may be unknown to students, but become highly interesting to them when celebrations for the Māori New Year occur.

Units at a particular curriculum level can also be readily modified to meet the learning needs of students across a range of levels. Differentiating the difficulty of tasks is a critical part of effective teaching. There are a variety of effective ways to differentiate learning tasks:

  • Provide open tasks that have multiple solutions and strategies, for example, changing a problem about finding the area of a 6 x 8 array to finding as many rectangular chocolate blocks as possible with 40 squares.
  • Vary the complexity of numbers, figures, measures or data to suit the students while keeping the problem the same, e.g. An array area of 24 for some students, 144 for others.
  • Alter the level of abstraction required by providing tools such as physical materials, diagrams, and recording strategies to support students, e.g. Provide square tiles or paper for students who want those materials.
  • Structuring progression through multi-step problems for students who need it, always with a view towards independence.
  • Demonstrating important skills as those skills are needed by students.
  • Highlighting the learning goals of the unit and supporting students to self-evaluate their progress towards those goals.