Which Blended Learning Model is the Best Fit for my Math Classroom?

Posted by Ryan Hack on Dec 3, 2013 2:10:00 PM

blended_learning_model_imageBlended learning, a mix of "online" and traditional "offline" instruction, is often referred to in four main flavors: rotation, flex, à la carte, and enriched virtual.

But, as you know, math instruction has intricacies and nuances all its own, so the idea of pigeonholing a "best blended learning model" for the math classroom is a very tricky process.

Read below the break to learn about the key elements of math instruction and how they relate to the various blended learning models (and your classroom).

Identifying the less-than-favorable math stigma

"Math has a lot of negative stereotypes, but it can actually be fun and incredibly empowering."

Danica McKellar

For whatever reason, math class seems to elicit pure fear from students. Somewhere between counting blocks and developing mathematical proofs, students often lose interest and just find math to be too hard or unneeded.

Children are born with an ability to appreciate "numerosity" (as described in this great Washington Post article), but subsequent skill development, in terms of math aptitude, often arrives at different speeds and adeptness for each student. By the time math instruction gets in-sync with the student's learning ability and pace; aversion, fear, and distrust of "math class" may have already reared its ugly head. 


Four elements of effective math instruction

So, how do you avoid the fear of becoming the "scary math teacher" in your classroom and what can you do to meet your students' math learning needs via blended learning? Let's take a look a few promising elements found in the connection between online and offline learning tools.

According to studies reviewed by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, there are four key elements of effective math instruction:

  1. Systematic and explicit sequencing - the educator guides students through a detailed, defined instructional sequence.
  2. Self-instruction opportunities - students manage their own learning with specific prompting or solution-oriented questions.

  3. Peer tutoring environments - pairing students to learn or practice academic tasks.

  4. Visual representation resources - using "manipulatives", pictures, number lines, and graphs of functions and relationships to teach mathematical concepts.

As you review these four quick points, identify the challenges and efforts you (and your students) may encounter within a blended learning setting. Each opportunity and challenge will help determine which blended instruction approach may be a good fit within your classroom.

Applying blended learning to math instruction

Now, let's take a look at how the above math instruction elements may exist within our four main blended learning model-types

The Rotation Model:

  • The process of rotating between "learning modalities" (at least one of these involving some form of online learning resources ) essentially combines all four of the above elements.

    Additionally, students can learn with visual representation (manipulatives) both on-screen and off. Educational technology tools provide great visual representation of math concepts and problems. 

The flex model:

  • Within a flex model, the "teacher of record" provides face-to-face support on a flexible and adaptive as-needed basis.

    This process may not provide the same of intense, continuous input from a living person we're used to via traditional instruction. But, it does offer excellent opportunities for a focus on self-driven learning and more teacher-to-student instruction avenues as the classroom educator scaffolds higher-order concepts and helps to individual students in need.

The à la carte model:

  • This model requires students to take one or more courses entirely online (with an online instructor/facilitator) while also continuing "brick-and-mortar" educational experiences within their curriculum path. 

    Once again, this model is heavy on the focus toward self-instruction, allowing students to learn at own pace either within the classroom or from a remote location. However, it's important to note that the à la carte model does reduce the ability for in-person instruction and peer tutoring (depending on the format of the online learning). 

An enriched virtual model:

  • Finally, an enriched virtual model constitutes a whole-school experience in which within in each course learning is divided between brick-and-mortar campus and remote online content and instruction.

    This model is now being executed by many of the online schools who began with full online courses, but realized that a traditional offline classroom setting offers the ability to further scaffold learning and develop the critical thinking and collaboration skills often only found in face-to-face settings.

So, which model is right for your classroom?

Well, the answer to that question is a tough one. In my opinion, the four base models and the four instruction elements are a great place to start, but your model does not have to fit exactly into a predetermined mold. 

How much will you "blend" instruction? What means will you use to do so? What is the desired outcome of blended math instruction? 

These are all important questions that you must ask of themselves prior to developing a blended learning math model. You know your instruction styles/abilities, so by weighing student learning needs and the available resources, the construct of the blended learning classroom is truly up to you!

  • What elements of blended learning do you use within your math instruction? Start your conversation on our Facebook Page or Tweet us at @Wowzers.

More free blended learning resources from the Wowzers Team!

Click here to download our new eBook!

Topics: Blended Learning

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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