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Student-Centered Instruction and Differentiation

Hannah Wissmann
Regent University

In partial fulfillment of UED 496 Field Experience ePortfolio, Spring 2017



A mistake is the most valuable thing in a classroom. The teacher, nor the pencil, not even

the answer is as important as a mistake. From a mistake the brain learns, even if there is no

recognition of a mistake. This has vast implication for the math classroom. For this competency,

its implications include support for a student-centered classroom and provide specific insights to

differentiating instruction.

Rationale for Selection of Artifacts

The first artifact is a lesson plan for graphing systems of equations and systems of

inequalities. The student followed along as the teacher filled out the notes, which included

important vocabulary and several examples. This lesson plan demonstrates how the teacher led

the students through important vocabulary and key concepts by asking questions that helped

students connect new content to prior knowledge. It also demonstrates how the teacher asked the

students their opinion on how to solve the problem, providing some appropriate stretching of the

mind by determining how they would solve this problem. It also included evidence of student

choice as the students picked the problems they were to complete for homework.

The second artifact is a collection of pictures from the guided practice activity the

students completed after their notes. For this activity, groups of students were given a system of

equations or inequalities to graph on a large piece of graph paper. The students worked in

cooperative learning groups arranged by high/low learners. They worked together to correctly

graph both equations (inequalities) and represent the solution to the system.

Reflection on Theory and Practice

There is such a high anxiety level surrounding mathematics that students need a

classroom to be student-centered. To this end, mathematics need to be presented as patterns,


connections, logic, and creativity. Math is not, all about rules and procedures certainty and

right and wrong answer, andnumbers (Boaler, 2016, p. 31). This creates a fixed mindset in

learners, enabling them to believe math is strictly a performance subject. For a math classroom to

be truly student-centered, there needs to be more exploration for students. In a geometry

classroom, this could include measuring angles and side of quadrilaterals to determine

relationships between opposite side or angles. However, students cannot be left on their own to

discover or make up any property they choose. Instead, the teacher leads the discovery,

scaffolding learning for the low students by asking probing questions of their results.

While the teacher offers probing, clarifying questions to the low levels, there must be a

level of disequilibrium for the student to truly learn. Boaler states current math education gives

students repetitive and simple ideas that do not help them [move] to the important state of

disequilibrium (Boaler, 2016, p. 18). Students brains are not being stretched enough. This

creates two problems: it limits meaningful math experiences for high achieving students and

assumes the low achieving student is not capable of such thought, hindering them reaching their

full potential.

The final question is what should this look in a math classroom. After leading the

students through the discovery of a mathematical principle, the students should work together to

complete problems. Here students listen to each other as different students offer ideas (Boaler,

2016). They will make valuable mistakes, fix them, and eventually solve the problem. There is

clear evidence that such learning includes some brain-based strategies, such as searching for

meaning by looking for connections and pattern (Radford, 2013, p. 157). Also, these groups

can be set up based on high/low learners or student choice (Radford, 2013, pp. 159, 166). This

provides the student with opportunity to discuss and teach other students, directly applying what

they learned.

The largest obstacle in a math classroom is the students preconceived notions of their

mathematical ability. This is analogous to our relationship with God. I will always fear the harsh

judgment from God if I always perceived my position before God as sinner instead of saved. To

overcome this, Jesus works in our hearts to change us from the inside out through the power of

the Holy Spirit. Similarly, to overcome a students preconceived notions of their mathematical

ability, the teacher makes the classroom student-centered by promoting mistakes and valuing

them above getting the correct answer. The teacher targets the thoughts of students, the inside,

rather than their correct answer (the outside). In doing so, the teacher creates an environment that

support exploration and student initiative to make connections and find patterns. This is what we

naturally do when we have a right understanding of our position with God, explore his nature

and creation, making connections with his character. This is why the first step is to change how

math is perceived by the student, from performance based to exploration based.


Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical Mindsets. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Radford, C. P. (2013). Strategies for Successful Student Teaching. New York: Pearson.