A couple of years ago, I attended an inservice on learning centers in the classroom. Since then, learning centers have become a huge part of my teaching. Now, my students participate in self-directed, self-motivating review, practice, and enrichment on a regular basis. The kids love the math centers and even ask for more work!! This blog is dedicated to helping teachers make math centers a meaningful part of their instruction, thereby increasing students' achievement and the enjoyment of teaching!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tiered Assignments

If you want to meet your students where they are in the learning process, you may want to consider including tiered assignments in your learning centers. Tiered assignments are assignments where the level of challenge varies based on students' learning needs. Typically, this is done by starting with the middle level, which is based upon the instructional level that students generally should be expected to meet. Then, the assignment is modified to make it more basic and perhaps provide additional background information or scaffolding to help students whose understanding of the material is still developing. Finally, a more challenging version of the assignment is developed for students who have already mastered the skills, and are ready to start applying the skills in a new setting, or who may be ready to move on to a related skill that goes beyond the instructional level of the class.

For example, suppose the class is working toward a content standard involving plotting points on a coordinate plane, using all 4 quadrants. You might begin with  a whole group lesson where students learn about the purpose of plotting coordinates and how to do so.

  • The middle level assignment might simply be a set of points to plot in all four quadrants, . To make the work more enjoyable for students, you might create a set of points that, when connected, will form a design. 
  • For students who are still developing an understanding, you might provide an assignment in which only points in the first quadrant (with positive values) are included, and then scaffold the lesson, perhaps meeting with this small group for additional modeling prior to attempting to plot in all four quadrants. It is important that all students eventually meet the standard.
  • For students who data shows have already mastered the skill, you might require them to develop their own set of points on all 4 quadrants that will create a design of their own. Perhaps the design might be required to include some specific geometric figures. 

When tiered assignments are used, differentiation is certain to occur. You may need to assign students to work at a particular level, based upon your classroom observations or perhaps a pretest. If students are working on their own, you may consider allowing them to choose an assignment that they feel is most appropriate for them. Also, you may only want to have two levels, depending on the topic and upon the group of students you are teaching. There is a lot of information about tiered assignments available on various websites. You may want to learn more about tiered assignments and use them as a part of your math centers or as a part of your daily instruction.


  1. I actually tried using tiered assessments in my class this year. I went to some Marzano training on standards based grading last year, and we learned a lot about this type of assessment. I feel like I still have a lot to learn, but plan to keep working toward this type of assessment.