Organizing differentiated math work

February 4, 2011

Organizing differentiated math work

February 4, 2011
My newcomer ELL students represent a huge range of skills in math. Because of this, I find myself continually differentiating materials. From basic math skills all the way to on-grade level work, it’s a lot of management.

This past weekend, I rigged up a little system to help me keep all of these different papers (and my sanity). It has been working really nicely so far.

I used an old file box I had and a file folder for each student (the colors don’t mean anything, they’re just leftover folders). I put the folders in alphabetical order by first name (we do this a lot for sorting). This makes it easier for me to file specific work away for the students.

I’ve been running off the work a few days ahead, then just sorting it by skill. The yellow folder in the back is for the completed work (like you can’t see the label lol!).

This is one example of the work that I file. We have Everyday Math as our curriculum and I do enjoy many parts of it. However (and especially in 5th grade) this math series can be extremely challenging to students with limited fact mastery.

So I use Spaceship Math for math minutes each day. Spaceship Math is great because it cycles up through the facts (for instance all the zeroes and ones for multiplication) and there are four worksheets within each skill set (if that makes sense!). Since I’ve had many new students arrive I now have some of my students working on beginning multiplication facts, others working on speed and accuracy in the more difficult multiplication facts, and still others practicing very basic addition.

The worksheets are labeled, but are a bit tough to see. So I use a Sharpie to label the version (A3 represents the 3rd addition paper) and A or M in the right hand corner (for Addition or Multiplication).

This makes it easier to sort and correct.

So, now we are working on math minutes all at the same time…but at the level needed for each student.

In addition to these math minutes, I’ve been adding other skill papers to each file. These are used during the math workshop I am still trying to pull together efficiently (ugh) as part of each students’ independent work.

This file system has really helped me refocus and make sure everyone has the work they need the most. The kids, of course, love it (though I’m afraid my type-A tendencies are rubbing off on them!). I’m thinking of making a couple more of these boxes, for Spelling and Reading. Here are the files for the math work, in case you would like them:

Independent Math Work sign

Completed Work sign


  • Mrs. Patton February 5, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Great system, thanks for sharing.

    By the way… I'm your 99th follower 🙂

  • Ladybug Teacher February 5, 2011 at 2:07 am

    Mrs Patton!! I've been wicked excited about follower 100 but I am honored that you are 99–thanks for following! 🙂 🙂

  • MrsKinne February 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I am so glad I found your site! I teach ELL first grade, and I could adapt so many of your ideas for use with my kiddos. Plus, I am feeling overwhelmed with "stuff" in my classroom, and your organizational ideas are awesome! 🙂

  • Anonymous May 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Love this idea! Isn't it secretly wonderful when your students "catch-on" to the type A personality in most teachers?! LOL!

  • Kristen May 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    lol, it is Thea!!! 🙂

  • Anonymous July 7, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Love this idea!! I have a lot of ESL students as well, and I think this is fabulous!! Thanks for sharing!

  • jnwells December 2, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Is there a sign you could share for differentiated reading work? I just want it to say Independent Reading in lieu of Math?
    Jodie Wells

    • Kristen January 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      I'm sorry Jodie, I don't have one right now!

  • celeste January 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Where do you get your clipart for the students in your math work file?

  • Chris & Heather May 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    It's so great to hear someone else using Everyday Math in 5th Grade sees the same issue with skill drill. Thank you for sharing!

  • Teresa June 15, 2012 at 2:08 am

    This is fantastic, thank you!! I have been looking for something to supplement my Everyday Math materials. I think I will need to try this in the fall!!


  • Dru June 30, 2012 at 12:09 am

    Love!! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful idea!

  • Julia Leonard March 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    What would you say is the most important part of minute math worksheets? I'm working on adding this section to my site now. I want to make something that teachers and kids can enjoy.

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