One pace does NOT fit all

Since I began using Khan Academy in my classroom I’ve really embraced this concept that one pace does not fit all.  Sal Khan’s book The One World School House, highlights the fact that most every teacher teaches with a “one pace fits all” approach.  This fact is really of no fault of the teacher’s, because frankly, it’s extremely difficult to adjust the pace of every student.  It’s difficult enough to manage 100 students progressing at the same pace.

Fortunately, technology can do some things better than teachers.  Khan Academy was built specifically to manage 100 students learning math at a different pace.  Khan Academy liberates the teacher from managing multiple worksheets, quizzes, and tests of 100 different students.  Instead, that time can be devoted to doing what few teachers have time to do: teach students.  Believe it or not, most of my week is spent sitting or kneeling right next to a student or group of students solving problems.  This post is about how I adjust the pace to better meet the needs of all my students.  This doesn’t come without it’s frustrations, mistakes, and successes.  There is no manual for meeting every need represented in a middle school math classroom.  If you imagine a student’s math skills like a block of swiss cheese, they all have holes.  Some have many holes.  I have taken the approach that if I can fill as many holes as possible, that student will have a better chance for success.  We all know that students don’t learn at the same pace, so if given the opportunity to adjust the pace for all students, it needs to be done.  This is especially true in a math classroom where skills build one upon the other.  The pictures below represent ONE class of students and the topics they were working on during class.  In a class of 20 students, you’ll see about 6 different skill represented.  Each of these students is receiving the proper instruction and practice in the area specific to them.  They won’t move on to the next “level” until they’ve beaten this one.

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If your student comes home and tells you that Mr. Oldfield is just moving too fast for me, you’ll know that’s not true.  Learning is my first priority, and if that takes someone extra time, then use the time.  Operating my classroom in this way also allows students the ability to work ahead if they choose.

2 thoughts on “One pace does NOT fit all

  1. Wow, I just had a similar conversation this morning with some other teachers. Unfortunately some teachers feel pressured to cover everything they’re supposed to cover, with no regard to how well students actually learn it, if they learn it at all. This is very unfortunate.

  2. Seems pretty logic to me! I know that math is my child’s most complicated subject.
    I personally feel that in elementary school, they bounce back and fourth too much. I think that if they’d take a little more time on each math lesson and give the kids a chance to master that specific one before moving on… They’d have less problems in middle school.

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