Anyone who’s tried to master a complicated task—such as preparing the perfect coq a vin to impress your dinner guests—knows there’s a disconnect between instruction and execution. You could have the greatest cookbook in the world, but conquering a difficult new recipe means trying, failing, changing your approach, and trying again, and again, and again.
Recent neurological research helps us understand why this is so: the more “dendritic pathways” the brain develops toward a particular object, the deeper and more permanent the understanding that results. In other words, to avoid serving your guests a bird the consistency of a rubber tire, you’ll need to call up a more experienced chef, log some time on YouTube watching the pros de-bone a chicken, and try out the recipe on yourself and a forgiving loved one before building a dinner party around it.
It’s no different for an eighth-grader trying to understand linear functions. In fact, in educational environments, having multiple pathways to learning becomes more important because each student responds to different modalities in different ways. Some want to review the theory before tackling a tough problem, while others would rather dive right in. Some work better in groups, others prefer to go it alone, and still others thrive in moments when the teacher sits down beside them to work through a problem one-on-one.
In response to research showing the benefit of multiple modalities, it is becoming more and more common for teachers to augment traditional teaching methods with learning centers or learning stations. These are places where students can learn individually or in small groups, often in ways that are more hands-on or employ different problem-solving strategies than they would use in traditional teacher-student instruction.
Taking it Further
One thing we’ve tried to do with Teach to One: Math is take this approach to differentiated learning to the next level, harnessing the power of multiple modalities to create a total personalized learning experience that brings math to life for every type of student. Since every student’s day is personalized, students will spend more time learning in ways demonstrated to make math click for them.
In one day, for example, a student might move fluidly from teacher-guided live investigation to virtual instruction on a laptop or small group collaboration—transitions that are made seamless by Teach to One: Math’s open-plan learning environment.
Nine Pathways to Successful Learning
In total, Teach to One: Math offers nine different instructional approaches grouped into three categories: Teacher Delivered Modalities, Student Collaboration Modalities, and Independent Modalities. Because they are freed to focus on smaller groups of students as opposed to spending all their time on classroom management, teachers using Teach to One: Math have noted an increase in the quality and impact of their interactions with students. At the same time, the Student Collaboration and Independent modalities ensure that students are engaging with the lessons via multiple pathways that encourage retention and ownership of the material rather than superficial memorization.
According to a November 2016 survey, seven out of ten students report that personalized learning has empowered them to improve as independent learners, and 80% report having multiple opportunities to solve the same problem helps them learn.