May 16, 2022

Personalizing Learning in Math (Part 1)

It’s day three of the Circles Unit. Students come to class and Mrs. Verstreate tells students about her weekend: a dead deer, a popped tire, and a basketball game.  She gives them the opportunity to share about their weekend too- they feel cared for.

After this, Mrs. Verstreate passes back a quiz.  Along with the quiz, students receive a sheet to guide self reflection.

She asks students to reflect on their understanding related to each learning target.

Here’s the catch… the quiz isn’t even graded yet!  Students are holding a quiz that displays their understanding of each target, but they must rely on their own reflection to gauge mastery.  Students use the rubric to self assess based on each target.

After this, students enter their answers online and calculate the percentage correct for each target.

While students were calculating this, I asked Mrs. Verstreate, “Tell me about what is happening right now…”

Her response mimicked the growth mindset she encourages her students to take on a daily basis- “I think it is valuable for students to be aware of what they think they know compared to what they actually know.”

Students are encouraged to think about their thinking.  After recording their percentages, students made decisions based on their learning needs.  They made an informed choice to determine the next learning steps to take: practice, assess, and extend.

Students are set up to own their learning moving forward because self-reflection took place early on in the unit.

Students received a list of options of how to grow their understanding.  Students wrote down and pursued their next step:


After the lesson Heather reflected on the following questions:

How are you hoping this experience impacts your students?

I am hoping this will help my students with goal setting for themselves. I also hope this will motivate each student individually to push past what the can do to the extensions.

Long term, I am hoping this comparison between how they feel about a type of problem or concept and their actual performance on practice DOES equate to how they can do on an assessment or performance task.

How would you describe your role in the classroom while students were working on their plan?

I see myself as a coach as they are going through this. I am there to help analyze results, provide practice and instruction, and encourage students to set their goals high.

How did this lesson foster growth in students’ habits of mind?

This is the perfect practice for thinking about their thinking – a critical skill as they progress to higher level problems and classes. I also hope this will foster their ability to take responsible risks with trying some of the more advanced problems and extensions.

What is your plan moving forward?

Every few days I will be checking in with individuals and maybe even survey the class to be sure we are on track and they have what they need to move forward. I am excited to see how this goes!!


Future parts of this article will include experiences of other math teachers.

Joe Muhlberg

Joe Muhlberg is a Learning Experience Designer at Mason High School.

View all posts by Joe Muhlberg →

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