Many of us understand the need for including leveled reading books in our classroom libraries so all students have access to texts. Many of us have also embraced the idea of letting students select the books they want to read based on their interests. With the hope of students keeping their eyes on the text a little longer, connecting pictures to sounds, and finding meaning in the stories told by others.

We are willing to put students into small groups so they can freely discuss the ideas inspired by a text. We ask readers, “What do you notice?, What word would make sense?, What can you predict might happen next?,  How does this story connect to your own life?”
But… have we embraced these same questions and appraoches when it comes to mathematics?

Mathematics education research reveals a great deal of evidence demonstrating that students vary in their understanding of specific mathematical ideas.
(Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics, Van de Walle, 2013).

In a traditional, highly directed lesson, it is often assumed that all students will understand and use the same approach and the same ideas as determined by the teacher. Students who are not ready to understand the ideas presented by the teacher must focus their attention on following rules or directions without developing a conceptual or relational understanding (Skemp,R., 1978 Arithmetic Teacher, 26(3), 9-15 ).

Printed from Houghton Mifflin

This, of course, leads to endless difficulties and can leave students with misunderstandings or in need of significant remediation.

lf your students are fortunate enough to afford private tutoring, problem solved.  If your students live in a home with two or more caregivers, they may get the extra attention they need. If your students have a confident English-speaking parent who can advocate for them, they may be okay. But, if your students live in a home where they must fend for themselves or are told they should be able to figure it out by themselves when it comes to homework, the child will likely hold onto misconceptions, misunderstandings, and develop an inadequate understanding of mathematics that may prevent their access to higher education.

Are you teaching with equity?

Have you structured your mathematics approach to meet the needs of all your learners?

Do you teach students a bunch of different procedures then rate their daily performance with an exit ticket?

Do you spend days teaching students how to use a particular procedure, test them on the procedure, then proceed to tell them they cannot use the same procedure they worked so hard for the following week?

Do you do the upcoming lesson in the book simply because you don’t want to get behind your colleagues? Even when your students appear ready for the next lesson.

Do you have students memorize their 3’s times tables, post their progress, and then prevent them from moving on to the 4’s until they memorize the 3’s?

Do you practice CGI by doing word problem Wednesdays with your students? (FYI- word problems do not equal CGI math)

Do you repeat the same procedure over and over until your students get it or do you slowly increase the difficulty of problems until your students are performing at grade level?

Do you ask your students open-ended questions using words like “why” and “how” versus “what”?

Are you posing problems that reflect your students’ lives, their environments, their wonderings?

Are you looking for students to explain their reasoning with every math problem they do?

Are you providing number choices, a variety of tools, the open use of strategies, using a different student model to share their thinking every day?

If the same 1-2 students are sharing their work every day then this is a clear sign the instructional approach being used is inequitable.

Are you teaching with equity?

Below I have included some examples of student work that has been modified or differentiated to meet the needs and interests of students.

A 3rd-grade student cuts graph paper into parts to find the total area while another student multiplies the parts to find the total area.


Multiple Visual Representations of Data
6th graders analyze basketball statistics of their favorite players (student choice and interest). Some students use tables to infer, while others create graphs to make sense of the data on a topic that holds meaning to them.


Scaffolded Instruction
4th-grade students are given graph paper to make sense of the “invisible” columns and rows hidden in the abstract area models they are supposed to understand. Some students use color to better identify areas while others do not need the modification.


Students as Resources
This 2nd-grade teacher displays her student’s varying strategies. Students know they can confer and refer to classmates for help rather than just the teacher or the textbook.


Scaffolded Number Choices
The problem connects to a situation students encounter often in the classroom. The number choices go from simple to complex over the course of several lessons.

Is teaching with equity as simple as filling in the blanks and checking for the right answers? No, it requires so much more.

It requires us to consider the challenges of each learner and bring about the highest and best in each student,  even when someone hands us a book and tells us to do it the easy way because we know the easy way is not always the best way. Especially when oftentimes we are the ONLY resource a student has got.