As a math teacher, you want all of your students to reach their highest potential. However, with increasingly diverse student needs in today's classrooms, it can be difficult to determine how to meet your learners where they are. This is where accommodations come into play! These small adjustments can make a world of difference for struggling and reluctant learners. Today I wanted to share a little more about what math accommodations are (and aren't) and give you some ideas to use in your classroom.
What are accomodations?
Accommodations are changes or adjustments to the instructional environment, curriculum, or assessment that make it possible for all students to participate and learn. They can be put into place for a variety of reasons- such as a student's disability, cultural background, English language proficiency, or reading level. The goal of accommodations is always the same: to ensure that all students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
There are a few things that accommodations are NOT: they are not a replacement for instruction, nor do they guarantee success for any student.
Additionally, accommodations cannot be tailored specifically to an individual student- instead, they should be available to all students who need them. Finally, math accommodations should be used in conjunction with interventions, which are designed specifically for individual students.
What is the difference between accommodations and modifications?
The main difference between accommodations and modifications is that accommodations generally change the environment or the way things are done, while modifications involve altering the content of what is being taught.
For math, some common accommodations include providing math tools such as rulers and compasses, allowing students to use graphic organizers to organize their thoughts, and breaking down math problems into smaller steps.
Modifications, on the other hand, would be things like changing the math problems to be less difficult or providing alternate assignments for students who are struggling.
Some students with disabilities may require both accommodations and modifications to be successful. However, many struggling learners can benefit from accommodations without any modifications being necessary.
How can math accommodations help struggling learners?
There are a few ways that math accommodations can help struggling learners. First, they can provide students with specific strategies and tools to help them understand and complete math tasks. Additionally, accommodations can help to create a more supportive and structured learning environment, which can reduce feelings
Now that we've covered what accommodations are, let's dig a little deeper to understand the different types of accommodations you might consider providing in your math classroom.
The Four Key Types of Accommodations All Teachers Should Know
There are four types of accommodations you're likely to use in your classroom. In fact, you're probably already using many of these without realizing they are considered accommodations at all! These include adjustments to the learning environment, pacing of lessons or assignments, changes to the format of instruction, and adjustments to how students share their learning.
Each of these types of accommodations can be helpful for struggling learners in your math classroom. Now let's take a closer look at each one.
Environmental or setting accommodations focus on where.
These are changes to the physical environment of the classroom. This could involve things like adjusting the lighting, providing a specific type of seating, or working in a different area of the classroom.
Not surprisingly, these are often included in IEPs and 504 plans to help students. However, they can be provided to any student based on need as long as you document what you're doing.
Here are a few more examples:
- preferential seating
- access to a quiet space to work
- small group instruction
- access to online learning space
Schedule or timing accommodations focus on when.
These accommodations are designed to allow students to work at a pace that is the right fit for them. The most common of these is extended time, which is offered to students with a variety of different needs.
However, timing accommodations also include:
- offering breaks
- shortening assignments or using time limits to determine assignment length
- pausing and breaking down assignments into bite-sized pieces
Instructional or presentation accommodations answer how.
Instructional accommodations focus on how learning happens for the student. These changes to instruction are meant to provide more support for students as they learn new concepts. This can include the use of additional materials, like manipulatives, or tools to aid learning.
Examples of instructional accommodations include:
- modified or simplified language
- visual aids and supports
- frequent check-ins to monitor understanding
- directions provided in multiple formats
- access to teacher or peer notes
- questions read aloud to the student
- pre-teaching vocabulary
Response accommodations answer what.
These are the different ways you allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material. Response accommodations focus on the assessment of student learning and also answer what students will be asked to provide as evidence.
- the use of graphic organizers or concept maps
- multiple formats for showing learning (ie writing, video, physical product)
- multiple-choice questions instead of open-ended questions
- oral responses or a scribe for those who struggle with writing
- option to type any written work or record themselves answering
Hopefully, this gives you a little better understanding of what types of accommodations you might consider using or are already including in your math lessons.
Of course, there are more examples than those I've listed here, but keeping these four basic types in mind can help with your planning. It is always a good idea to have a conversation with the student's parents or teacher about their needs so you can create a plan that best meets his/her needs!
60+ Math Accommodations for Your Classroom
Math is an area many learners struggle. That's why it is important to have a variety of accommodations available. You can implement any of the options below. However, you should note that it might take a bit to determine if they are working.
The lists of strategies below will help you differentiate in math so all of your students can achieve success.
- One-on-one instruction
- Provide small group review after lesson
- Provide an audio version of the textbook
- Use manipulatives
- Visual aids – like personal anchor charts or step-by-step directions
- Provide a copy of student notes
- Split class into small groups
- Introduce graphic organizers or concept maps to organize new knowledge
- Highlight or color code key vocabulary or concepts
- Provide copies of problems written on board during guided practice
- Pre-teach key vocabulary and concepts
- Provide scaffolded notes w/ areas for students to fill-in-the-blanks
- Use verbal cues that identify the most important information during lessons
- Prepare the student before calling on them to answer aloud
- Provide page numbers from the textbook that correlate to lesson & offer models
- Allow students to record lessons & take pictures of slides.
- Record & share lessons with students or families
- Incorporate breaks every 8-10 minutes of instruction
- Plan breaks in lesson to check for understanding
- Use proximity to gain attention & help students maintain focus
- Utilize songs or rhymes to boost memory for rote information
- Incorporate sensory tools & fidgets into lessons
Classroom assignments or tests
- Give directions both orally and in writing
- Simplify wording of directions
- Orally read all word problems
- Provide extra workspace or large print
- Arrange problems from easiest to hardest
- Multiple choice questions instead of open-ended questions
- Allow oral responses or use of speech-to-text technology
- Reduce the number of problems per page
- Rubrics to provide specific feedback
- Math software/apps to provide extra practice
- Extended time
- Allow use of manipulatives
- Break assignments into chunks or offer paper to cover additional questions to reduce visual overwhelm
- Offer frequent breaks for movement
- Calculator, math fact chart, or formulas to reduce demands on working memory
- Frequently check-in on student progress during independent work
- Provide models with clearly laid-out steps
- Use of graph paper for lining up numbers to compute
- Allow use of alternative writing tools – dry erase, slant boards, etc.
- Reduce assignment length
- Use highlighter strips to help students track when reading word problems
- Trade timed tasks for untimed tasks
- Offer sentence stems or frames for written explanations
- Provide one problem at a time using tools like Google Slides or task cards
- Scribe responses for student
- Provide checklist for reviewing work before turning it in
- Give prior notice for all assessments – no pop quizzes
- Provide noise-canceling headphones to reduce distractions
- Offer frequent breaks for movement
- Use a study carrel or private seating to reduce distractions
- Offer a timer to help monitor how much longer they must work on a task
- Use preferential seating – near teacher or peers unlikely to engage
- During group, work give the student a specific task or responsibility
- Allow partial participation in groupwork
- Allow students to complete tasks or check in with a peer
- Teach student request to work in a separate space when distracted
- Consider adjustments to lighting for photosensitive students
- Communicate homework & expectations to parents
- Provide study guide or step-by-step directions for review
- Only provide homework that practices mastered or nearly mastered skills
- Reduce homework assignment length
- Reduce or remove penalties for late or incomplete homework
- Offer time parameters for homework like complete as much as you can in 20 minutes
Examples of Using Accommodations in the Math Classroom
While I've shared a number of possible ways you can help meet the needs of your learners in the space above, it can be helpful to get a feel for what this might look like in your classroom. That's why I've shared three scenarios below. I've experienced each of these, and I want to share the tools I've used to address the issues. These may not be a perfect fit for your learner's unique needs. However, I hope you'll find this to be a helpful starting spot.
Scenario 1: My student understands the concepts, but she struggles to finish assignments because she is pulled from class often or works slowly.
This is a common issue that is often mentioned when considering how to meet the needs of struggling learners or those that receive services outside the classroom. Therefore, here are five accommodations you may consider when you've got a student in this situation:
- Modify assignments to reduce the number of repetitions required
- Give extended time for assignments
- Grade only completed problems
- Allow oral answers, when possible.
- Create a system to help the student recall and prioritize unfinished work.
Scenario 2: My student does not understand the concepts being taught and falls behind quickly.
This student may need more repetitions and experience with the foundational parts of your instruction to master the skill. Here are some accommodations that can be helpful:
- Use manipulatives & focus on mastery of skill at the concrete level.
- Provide small-group or one-on-one reteach after the whole group lesson.
- Use breaks in your lesson to check for understanding or have the student paraphrase the big ideas.
- Organize problems on the assignment from easiest to most difficult to better identify where understanding breaks down.
- Use proximity & chunking to break down assignments and catch misconceptions quickly.
Scenario 3: My student is capable. However, he is easily distracted. This has led to some gaps in understanding & other difficulties in class.
When students are easily distracted, they often miss important information during your lessons. Over time, these small gaps can add up to create larger issues. Here are some ways you can support students with attention issues.
- Purposefully incorporate movement & activity into lessons to boost engagement.
- Chunk instruction into 8-10 minutes with movement breaks between.
- Use breaks in instruction to check for understanding
- Offer noise-canceling headphones or private study space for assignments
Documenting Math Accommodations in the Classroom
As I finish this post, I want to emphasize the importance of documentation for any accommodations you provide your students – whether they are identified with special needs or not.
Even if the accommodations seem minor, it can be helpful to have a record of what worked (or didn't work) in the event that a student experiences difficulties in the future. Good documentation can help support your decisions if you ever need to advocate for your student or provide information to other educators working with them.
However, I know you're busy! That's why I've created an easy-to-use sheet to help you better track the accommodations you provide for Tier 1 & Tier 2 students. This can also be used to help you track any math interventions. You can grab this for free by entering your name and email below.
Additionally, I'd also recommend creating a code to document these for your grade book. For example, ET might code extra time. This can help parents better understand what is going on in the classroom and it can be useful if you need to meet with the campus MTSS team.
Whenever possible, it's also best to include parents in conversations about accommodations. First and foremost, they can provide critical information about what has worked in the past and be a part of decisions made for their child's math education. This can also help them better communicate with you about how homework is going or other things that may impact the child's needs.
In conclusion, I hope these accommodations help you create a successful math classroom for all your students. Remember, math is a process, and accommodations can help ALL students be successful in your class. Finally, enter your email below if you'd like my Student Support Document.
Check out these Great Resources for Building Math Skills
Finally, if you have questions about accommodations or want to share ideas, please leave a comment below! I'm always looking for new ways to support my students.