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Week 1 Literature Review

Kelli Murphy
National University

TED 690
Professor Clifton Johnson
June 12, 2016


Differentiated Instruction in Shared Mathematical Contexts

I chose to review this article because I wanted to expand my knowledge of new ways to
teach math, my favorite subject, so that I can be effective in my teaching and differentiating was
one area I selected as a need for improvement. I wanted to learn about effectively differentiating
math for students. The article talks about Learning Mathematics through Representations (LMR).
Being that I am a very visual learner, I think this is a great idea for teaching math. LMR lessons
are organized in a five-phase structure that blends whole-class, group, and individual instruction
(Gearhart and Saxe, 2014, p. 429). What I like about this five-phase instruction is that it allows
for differentiation in each stage which is great when teaching because we all know that students
will always be at different levels whether it be from language or learning barriers, or any other
The article used an example for teaching about number lines. I appreciated the visual
presentation of the instructional activities as well as the examples so that I could follow along
and really grasp the idea behind LMR. This made it clear to me that this is necessary in the
classroom when I can already see value in it just reading about it.
The first phase was about opening problems. A lesson begins with independent work on
a few key problems, and differentiation resides in the accessibility of these problems, along with
the opportunity for informal formative assessment (Gearhart, et al., 2014, p. 429). The idea
behind this concept is that students can use this time to attempt to solve problems on their own
and by doing so they will come up with varied and inventive ideas. While students are working,
the teacher can walk around and observe or evaluate student ideas.


The second phase was about the opening discussion. In this phase, the teacher and
students discuss what they discovered in the previous phase. At this time, the teacher will
provide additional instruction or support to help students with the concept. The example in the
article with number lines had the teacher using visual aids to help students grasp the concepts
such as units. I can really see how using the visual aid could help students who are struggling
where other students understood just by verbal instruction.
In phase three students move into partner work. In the example, the students worked
together using the definitions they had been given along with Cuisenaire Rods to work on
solving problems. According to the article, Partner work differentiates instruction:
a. Partners learn from one another as they discuss their strategies.
b. Activity sheets are sequenced in difficulty and include extension problems.
c. While higherachieving students solve extension problems, teachers work with students
who need support on the common problems.
What I liked about this is that the partners can be specifically selected so that students are
receiving the most benefit. Sometime students at high and low levels can work together, and
sometimes students near the same level can work together. I also really liked the idea of
having extension problems or challenge problems. When you allow students to think they are
working on a challenge, it doesnt feel like extra work to them, but the students who are
excelling get a chance to work deeper or further on the idea. It isnt extra work, its deeper
The last two phases are for closing. The first one is closing discussion where students can
address any confusion they still have while teachers can be using techniques to engage all
students in communicating and resolving the ideas. I love how students can help teach
learned concepts. The second part of this closing phase is closing problems. This should be


done more as a formative assessment so that teachers have the opportunity to identify
students who need additional assistance and can provide differentiated support to these
The needs of individual students are supported with whole-class discussions that build
on incomplete ideas, as well as on differentiated partner activity sheets and formative
assessments that identify patterns of partial understanding (Gearhart, et al., 2014, p. 435).
This example of differentiated LMR really showed me how I can use these techniques to
engage the entire class in a productive mathematical inquiry.



Gearhart, M., & Saxe, G. (2014). Differentiated Instruction in Shared Mathematical

Contexts. Teaching Children Mathematics, 20(7), 426-435. Retrieved June 4, 2016,