How QC Math Addresses Differentiation

Hear from Clea Matson, curriculum developer for the QC math team, about differentiation in the QC setting.

Is QuantumCamp curriculum differentiated?

Having been asked this question numerous times, and believing wholeheartedly that the answer is a resounding “yes – absolutely” I identified four aspects of the QC Math program which create a differentiated learning environment: Activity design, teaching approach, end of quarter projects and extensions.

Activity design

The bulk of class time is taken up with 1 or more involved group activities. Our math activities explore concepts rather than skills. They are designed with a discovery in mind, but there is definitely not one path to this discovery. As we design, we consider some possible paths that student might take, and design to make room for these possible paths, and to account for approaches that we haven’t considered.

For Example: Geometric constructions (level 3 - Algorithms) – challenged to construct various shapes (e.g.) Acknowledged the shapes they created using divers methods – challenged them to “prove” it! Instead of giving a step-by-step method, building on each individual students’ understanding of the definitions to create an understanding of the geometric constructions

In addition, activities sometimes require multiple roles (e.g. measurer, recorder, walker, etc.), allowing students to take on the role that they find the most intriguing, and/or switch and share roles so that everyone gets a chance to take part in the activity differently throughout the class.

Teaching approach

The teacher plays an important role in enacting the flexibility with which these activities are designed. Some actions that we take that allow for freedom within the structure of the activity are, “cruising” the classroom, listening to student conversations, and most importantly strategically deciding, with the goal of the activity in mind, when to step in and when to allow groups to continue on their path. The ability to make these types of decisions necessitates a certain level of subject expertise and love for the subject, which we all have and require in potential new teachers! 

Extensions

Essential Extensions are suggested for solidifying concepts learned in class and often prepare students a bit for the following week. Exploratory Extensions are often chosen to illuminate a possible path for independent work if your student finds that particular concept intriguing. In addition, we have added suggested skills to practice to accompany the concept-based work done in class. We always have some “Recommended” skills that tie directly to our activity, as well as “Refreshers,” suggested to build a foundation if needed, and “Next Steps,” for students who need or want a challenge.

Projects

End-of-quarter projects are truly a chance for independent learning and for students to communicate their understanding in their own style. While we do provide a project description and a general guideline for content and structure, students can stay on the surface or go as deep into the content as they are ready to. At the end of the Level 2 probability class, for example (What are the Chances?), there was a discussion of Punnett squares and the probability of genetics, as well as demonstrations of theoretical vs. experimental probability where the presenters recorded as the audience tossed coins, or asked the audience to pull marbles out of a hat.

Instead of having different activities for students at different readiness levels, we find that this open approach provide freedom and flexibility allows sometimes “advanced” mathematics concepts to be accessible to all students.

As a curriculum designer for QC Math for levels 1 - 4, I can only speak to the math curriculum, but clearly much of the structure I described above (projects, extensions, teacher role) is repeated in science.

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