What do extensions for gifted students in middle school math look like in your school and in your classes?
Do you have a gifted specialist that helps out with extensions, or is it up to you to provide extensions for your gifted students?
We discussed these ideas (and more!) during our Extensions for Gifted Students session in July. (If you’d like to listen or see the presentation instead of read, head to the Free Resource Center and get started with that session. The session is about 30 minutes long.)
That session has actually been cut into two blog posts…the first one, which is more research-related and this second one, which is about specific things you can do to structure your classroom for ‘built-in’ extensions.
Let’s get to it!
Classroom Structures for Daily Extension Opportunities
In the first post, we reviewed some ideas and research about productive classrooms and modes of engagement.
The ideas of structuring the classroom for daily extension opportunities builds upon those ideas. (You may want to go to the previous post and check those out.)
We can try to structure our classrooms to have a productive, thinking environment.
- One way to do this is to include activities that are open to extensions as part of the classroom routine.
Using ‘math dates’ in the classroom is one quick, easy-to-implement idea that I’ve had a lot of successes with over the years.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I now send Math Dates out in the weekly emails. But if you’re new, you might not know what I mean:-)
Math dates are expressions for the day’s date. So if the date is 7/20/22, I might write:
How can this be seen as an daily extension?
Well, there were always students who’d ask if they could create their own dates and share with the class….and those students were almost inevitably the gifted students and high-achievers.
By creating their own, they may have explored:
- how they could use exponents differently
- working with the order of operations to get to the target number
- working with fraction operations or decimal operations
- the list could go on and on…..
Students worked with all types of ways to create expressions that were equal to a target number.
AND since they choose whatever math concept or calculation they want to work with, it’s very individualized.
Some students would even take the entire date, use the slashes as division and find the answer to the entire expression.
In doing this, students are extending their flexibility with how to represent amounts, and at the same time, get additional practice with a variety of math concepts.
So, math dates can be part of the daily routine for all students, BUT can also offer a daily opportunity for gifted students to extend and challenge themselves.
- The concepts in the dates are not always the same, so there’s variety in what they’re extending upon
- I also created number puzzles based on math dates that are cross-number and find-a-number that students could grab as an extension at any time
Additional Extension Activities
Math Problem Challenges
A few other example of extension activities for gifted students to keep on hand that aren’t tied to a particular unit but are challenging, are things like:
- any other type of math puzzles
- Math Olympiad or Math Counts problems.
- These are competitions students can get involved in if your school participates, but even if they don’t, you can access past problems on their sites and make those available for your students
- There are problems of the week that you can download and keep on hand
- These are excellent, challenging problems that aren’t necessarily tied to specific curriculum units. BUT at the bottom of the Math Counts problem of the week pages, the standards are identified; so you could align these with certain unit if you chose.
Another example of something you might have on hand that isn’t necessarily tied to a particular unit, but is challenging, are activities that use pentominoes.
Pentominoes can be used to extend spatial thinking….great for all students! They can be used with concepts like:
AND there all kinds of pentomino challenges you can find in different books and on different sites.
I used pentominoes on our first day of math class for many years, and then they were part of classroom fast finisher options, along with some different challenges I found in a pentomino book.
I think these are awesome for accessing a different part of students’ math brains.
Math Menus or Choice Boards
If you do want gifted extension activities that are specific to your units, then you might consider using the task or choice boards or math menus.
These can offer an opportunity for gifted students to go deeper and select an activity that aligns with their personal interests.
This fraction operations task board, for example has choices like:
- creating a PowerPoint presentation
- creating a video
- solving magic squares
- writing music
- or even creating their own idea
Having an option like this for each unit can provide additional extensions as part of the regular classroom environment.
What other ideas do you have for creating a productive classroom environment that makes providing extensions for gifted students just a little bit easier?