Thoughts: Keeping Kids From Falling Behind


I try my best to keep kids from falling behind. My best… is not always perfect, but I have the best intentions. I teach 2 classes: pre-algebra and Algebra 1. My pre-algebra class meets every day and I don’t generally need to work with them more than what I already do in class. My algebra class meets every other day and has a very fast pace. With these kids, I have less time to do in class practice and help, so I generally work with them outside of class, either during the 30 minutes built into our schedule every day or before school.

Before a lesson: I try to give enough opportunities to build up to what ever we are learning. If it is a more inquiry based lesson, I try to give enough time for every kid to get that light bulb moment with the material. If we are practicing a skill, I try to build up to some more difficult ones and I also will keep the directions on the ActivBoard for kids to use as they get stronger with the material.

During a lesson: Lots of practice, with lots of opportunities for me to see kid’s progress.

  • White Boards: By using individual white boards, I can monitor the kid’s progress. If I notice some kids are getting it faster than others, I will have those kids begin making problems to challenge another student. This will give me about 5 minutes of time to work with the kids who are struggling.
  • Announcer/Mathlete: When we do problems on white boards, I have the kids come up to do the problems on the board. I choose 2 kids- one is the “Mathlete” and does the math on the board, and one is the “Announcer” and does a commentary on what the other student is doing. Some kids get really into it and will announce it similar to a sports announcer, but some will just describe the math normally.
  • My Favorite “No”: Using old scrap paper cut into small sheets I can give problems for kids to do, I can give feedback to kids and discuss mistakes the whole class is making. I will do it 2-3 times in a row, and the kids love seeing the number of kids getting it right go up! If I notice that the same kid is getting it wrong, I use their mistake (anonymously) on the board or I have a quick conversation at their desk. Watch this video for a look at in action!

Finishing a lesson: Pulling the kids who are struggling to the side while the others work on the next assignment lets me work with them for 10 minutes still in class.

After lesson or during an activity: Picking activities where you can still work with kids lets you have opportunities to help kids who struggle. I use task cards taped around the room as a way to check in with kids, have quick conversations with the strugglers, or to give kids who are ready for individual practice time while I work with other kids.

During an activity: I try to pick differentiated activities where all kids can be engaged in something while practicing the material. RAFTs are my favorite way to do this. I can work with a kid without the rest of the class thinking it is because they are struggling. They can also pick an activity that they are capable of, which is another way to see how comfortable they are.

Outside of class: My school has 30 minutes built into the day for kids to get help. Some days are open for walk-ins, which means I can have a mix of students in there and some days I have appointments, which are generally absent kids I try to group up. My favorite way to structure my time outside of class is to assign certain topics to certain days. I will talk with my classes about topics they would all like some help with and we plan accordingly.

I know I could do more for my kids and that eats at me… Suggestions?

Originally Posted:


February 24th: Helping Students That are Behind in Math


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3 Responses to Thoughts: Keeping Kids From Falling Behind

  1. Pingback: Helping Students That Are Behind In Math | I Speak Math

  2. Amy Zimmer says:

    OMG! You do plenty! I am at a new school this year and guess what, even though we have tutorial twice per week in the morning, and even though we offer free math tutoring twice per week after school, the general rule of thumb is, “get a tutor.” I love it! Why, because a lot is being offered at no cost, and the families get the message: Algebra is important. As important as sports, music, and pizza. Get it done!

    • Andy Burton says:

      Thanks so much! I am familiar with the “get a tutor” motto and can’t bring myself to think that way about my own kids… I take it personally when they need a tutor even though a lot of the time it’s because the kid is pushed into the wrong level! Good luck for the rest of the year!

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