Self-Paced Learning in Middle School Math


Due to data from initial tests being considerably lower than in previous years, I’ve been working to create a fully self-paced classroom for my eighth-grade math students this school year. To wean pupils off of a conventional, teacher-driven structure will take some time. The difficulties of the previous two years made me realize that some adjustments are necessary for each student’s success.


I felt obligated to scaffold where there were glaring gaps in each student’s math abilities, concepts, and critical thinking since I had to teach the Algebra 1 standards. The self-paced style is useful in this situation. The course gradually moves away from the traditional structure by combining traditional and self-paced forms.


This flexibility is permitted by the middle school Algebra 1 course. All eighth-graders in our district have the chance to complete Algebra 1 and receive high school credit. A pupil advances to Geometry if they pass. If not, they can take Algebra 1 again as freshmen as they have already had exposure to the basic concepts.


For a few reasons, I believed we needed an additional anchor to help us best accomplish this challenging aim. First of all, not every student learns in the same way. Some only require the listed materials once, and they are good to go. Others require drills and severity. Supplemental lessons will offer assistance, practice problems, etc. for that.


Differentiation is the additional justification for supplementing. It gives pupils access to perspectives other than simply mine so they can learn. It encourages me to play a more supportive role in education rather than acting as the primary provider of instruction. I chose the Khan Academy’s Algebra 1 course for each student to master in order to be immediate.


Students have a mechanism to discover the solution if they need assistance when I’m not around. Additionally, because of our school district’s 1:1 effort, kids each have a dynamic learning tool in their Chromebook. Through the learning management system used in the lesson, students can access additional resources. When it’s time for assessment, I meet with the students, we discuss their accomplishments, and then I virtually offer a formative assessment. This enables quick feedback on their subject matter expertise.


Monitoring this self-paced component of the class requires some checks and balances for optimal practices. To help with this, I started student meetings—quick, productive meetings with easy checkpoints (or what the traditional class would call bell-ringer quizzes). The purpose of progress monitoring meetings is to set their next challenge, discuss the themes they have mastered, and grade the checkpoint together.


I created a visible line graph of progress for everyone to observe in order to infuse this classroom project with a little friendly rivalry. I provided each student a unique token to serve as a measuring placeholder so they could chart their most recent progress on our classroom’s mastery graph instead of writing their names on the board for privacy. At the conclusion of each week, students update the position of their token. Each student can compare their development to that of their peers.


The goal of the self-paced time frame is to close any gaps in pupils’ mathematical understanding. We talk about the gaps that need to be filled for their learning to advance during conferences with my students. For instance, students need to understand the distinctions between the greatest common factor and least common multiple because we recently covered the subject of expressing linear equations in standard form. I gave a student an assignment using a digital tool to finish by the next conference time because they were having trouble comprehending the procedure. This enables some people to fill in gaps while others continue to grasp Algebra 1.


The teacher (and the student) receive quick feedback on comprehension from brief virtual tests. My students and I can find the ideas that are missing using a feed-forward strategy and tackle them in upcoming lessons. Instead of using a math anchor, these corrected classes make advantage of digital tools that offer gamified environments and extra information with a math focus.


These online testing resources might help maintain students’ interest in the mathematics program. Overall, I observe that my pupils enjoy the class because it is not a rote activity every day. The question should be, “What can I (as an individual) learn today, and how will I learn it?” Students are discovering themselves in a less regimented, higher-expectation atmosphere every day. Flexible seating is now being viewed as a liberation. These students share my desire for them to want to study. It all started with meeting them where they were.