# Creating Centers in the Classroom – Part 4

This blog is the fourth part of a multi-part series titled “Creating Centers in the Classroom.” If you’ve missed the previous installments, you can read part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, and part 3 HERE.

In our continuing series of blog posts on creating math centers in the classroom, I began thinking about the idea of differentiated instruction in a center-based classroom. Differentiated instruction as explained by Carol Ann Tomlinson is “adjusting lessons for students’ based on factors such as individual learning styles and levels of readiness” (1). In other words, differentiated instruction is an approach that may help adapt instruction to the mathematics of students.

When differentiating instruction I wondered what are the determining factors in distinguish for specific students, how do I know the types of differentiation that are the best fit for students, and how do I present concepts with rigor to students whose levels of readiness are low or high? Using centers in the classroom can help with these questions by allowing for the design of lessons based on a students’ prior knowledge and a students’ level of readiness.

One of the suggested ways of differentiating within a classroom is to differentiate the content students receive. Currently, for many classes, the content taught is prescribed by standards and pacing guides that are determined by the school district and state educational standards. Standards and pacing guides lead to educating all students the same content precisely the same way. However, wouldn’t think some students may be unfamiliar or unprepared for the concepts in a lesson, some may have partial understanding in advance, and some may already be familiar with the content before the lesson even begins. Doesn’t this mean this discrepancy could create a system where students do not receive instruction that is beneficial to their education?

Since we can never honestly know what is precisely happening in another person’s head, we can only infer what a child may be thinking when working through mathematical situations. However, with experiences from working with many children, couldn’t a teacher build models of what they believe their student’s thinking is during these situations? Our understanding of a child’s development of number along with models of the students’ mathematics could allow differentiated instruction based on the child’s knowledge while presenting additive, subtractive, multiplicative and fractional situations.