Independence in Math Class

“But they could do it at the side table 10 minutes ago… why can’t they do it now???”

Sound familiar? You have a handful of students who you have been pulling aside for additional help in math. You are even stepping back and thinking C-R-A and in the small group setting your kids are really starting to come along. But then you send them off on their own and they are not able to perform the way you would have expected. 
For students to be independent in their application of mathematics they need frequent opportunities to practice math independently. If I “hold their hands” during math lessons they will then require that hand holding to perform on a math task. 
I have found that strategically planning my math lesson with opportunities for independence in mind, I can combat this problem. I work with my students in a pull out intervention group for 30 minutes each day but if you are a classroom teacher you can easily use this format in less face to face time. I break my lessons down into 3 main parts so that students are able to receive new instruction but then practice skills- both new and old- independently. 

Concept Development: We begin our lesson with some sort of concept development. Concept development lasts only about 10 minutes at most. Concept development may be a word problem, an introduction to a math tool, a puzzle or whatever experience I can give my students that will help them to construct meaning around our lesson goal. I put a particular focus on math language and math talk during concept development. Students need to be talking to one another using math language during this portion of the lesson. 

Concept Practice: Concept development then spills into concept practice. This will take the remainder of the first 15 minutes. This may include some whiteboard practice or a short problem set. This time allows me to get my first glimpse of students who may have misconceptions or difficulties when performing independently.

Independent Practice: The entire second half of my math lesson is devoted to independent practice. If you are in the classroom and don’t have a full 30 minutes to devote to tier 2 or tier 3 groups, this is where you would send your students off to practice on their own and grab another group. I run independent practice much like a classroom teacher would run math centers. I include centers that review concepts and skills my students have previously practiced, centers which allow the students more time to explore math patterns using hands on materials and centers which will allow students to make generalizations or break over generalizations.

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