Personalized learning in mathematics: How can we help students own their learning journey?

You can find different kinds of students in a math classroom: students who need more complex exercises, those who miss classes due to personal circumstances, others who suffer from math anxiety or dyscalculia, etc. A one-size-fits-all approach is not enough to fulfill everyone’s potential.

Calculus student

Personalized learning is one of the most popular and promising current trends in the education and edtech sector. Although this idea is not new, technology enhances our possibilities to provide students with tailored journeys.

Despite the broad efforts institutions make to implement personalized learning in their classrooms, there is still no consensus about what personalized learning is (Walkington & Bernacki, 2020). This situation poses an obstacle to thinking clearly and researching this subject.

In this blog post, we will clarify this concept, explore its potentialities, and give practical examples of how SOWISO empowers teachers to implement personalized learning in their math lessons.

What is personalized learning in math?

Let’s start with the working definition we have chosen. According to Patrick et al. (2013: 4):

“Personalized learning is tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests — including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn — to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

In a blog post from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Berry (2018) also emphasizes the importance of the humanizing aspects of personalized learning that allow educators to help students to understand mathematics, engage with this subject, and build a positive relationship with it.

Before we discuss the benefits of this approach, there is a prevalent myth of personalized learning we want to dismantle:

Personalized learning is not an individual journey

Personalized learning offers all learners a custom-made path and the ability to practice at their own pace, but this doesn’t mean that this journey should be lonely.

This is a common misconception about mathematics learning too. Far from being a solo adventure, group work in math presents multiple benefits over individual work (Sofroniou & Poutos, 2016). Encouraging collaboration and active involvement in the class is essential for a successful learning experience and the development of mathematical and socio-emotional skills. It also fosters an inclusive culture.

Personalized learning in Mathematics

Why is personalized learning important in math?

Among the multiple personalized learning benefits in math, we can find:

Personalized learning improves students’ results

Tailored learning paths boost students’ strengths while decreasing their weaknesses. This educational approach can improve students’ performance and consolidate what students learn in the long run.

Personalized learning is a helpful way to engage and motivate students

Relevant and personalized content inspires students and facilitates connecting with them. Besides, personalized learning is based on giving learners agency and creating a safe environment where they can learn from their mistakes. This creates the necessary conditions that students need to cultivate a growth mindset.

Personalized learning in Mathematics

Personalized learning is key to building an inclusive course:

We can find multiple profiles in our math courses. For example, in every math classroom, there are students seeking instant gratification, while others are oriented towards delayed gratification. Or some of them need to skip one chapter because they have mastered it, while others got stuck in the first unit. Personalization enables educators to meet everybody’s requirements and help everyone succeed.

Moreover, learners with disabilities can thrive and grow incredibly in personalized learning environments, as research by Basham et al. (2016) shows. If you need more resources to know how to personalize and accommodate your classroom for students with special needs, we recommend this website.

Personalized learning in Mathematics

Personalized learning helps support disadvantaged students and democratizes education

Personalized learning is a tool to make education more accessible and fair. This approach aids in closing the gap by providing underprivileged students with quality content adapted to their level and needs.

Growing evidence shows that technology-supported personalized learning permits close educational gaps for marginalized students (Major & Francis, 2020). Additionally, it can contribute to bringing high-quality education to impoverished areas of the world.

Technologically-enhanced personalized learning in math with SOWISO

Mathematics is frequently one of the hardest subjects for students. Personalized learning, regular formative assessments, and mastery-based learning are proven ways that improve mathematical learning, and this also applies to other STEM subjects.

However, teachers often don’t have resources like time to provide their students with this method, and personalized learning is often seen as a utopia. Fortunately, technology can expand teachers’ possibilities.

Some people are skeptical of technology-enhanced personalized learning because they think it means replacing teachers and pushing students to solve exercises without processing them deeply. Despite this belief, these technological resources can be designed to promote active learning while empowering teachers to elevate their lessons.

By automating the most repetitive parts of educators’ work, teachers can use the time they save to focus on their job’s most creative and interpersonal dimensions. This extra time can be dedicated to promoting mathematical and critical thinking skills. This time can also be used to make mathematics more relevant for students by finding ways to incorporate their interests into the lessons and increase their interest through real-life problems.

Now, we will present some of SOWISO’s features that personalize math learning while simplifying educators’ lives and engaging students.

Adaptability mode

Our adaptive systems work by analyzing the students’ performance and, subsequently, choosing to make the material harder or easier. It adapts the path the students take through the content so that it fits their levels. Students first have a diagnostic test that determines their level in the given section. Then, exercises are adjusted to them.

Adaptivity helps students get realistic insights about their performance and progress, increases students’ agency, and encourages them to practice until they master the course content.

Automated feedback

In practice mode, our learning environment automatically analyses students’ answer attempts and identifies where and what the mistakes are, giving specific hints to their learning path.

Students get this feedback regardless of their input, whether it’s a wrong answer or a correct step towards the solution, simulating private tutoring.

Learning Analytics Calculus student

Learning analytics

Our digital tool allows teachers to get integral reporting over all facets of their course, with in-depth analyses per subsection. Our learning analytics enable educators proactively identify red flags and improve their teaching or curriculum design by adding more focus on a specific topic or redesigning a component of the course. Moreover, this feature assists teachers in detecting which students need additional assistance on time.

Inclusive features

In our digital platform, you can adjust test settings for individual students and make exceptions for students who need them. For example, dyslexic students can have extra attempts and time to complete the test.

We have also developed features like text-to-speech for all our content to make our platform more inclusive for our users.

Personalized messages

If you want to give a personal touch to your course, you can personalize the messages students receive on our platform depending on their results. Previous teachers have incorporated texts like “Bravo!".

This is a simple yet inspiring strategy to humanize technology, engage your students and motivate them to keep doing their best.

Personalized messages on SOWISO

Do you have any doubts about personalized learning in math or other STEM subjects? Feel free to contact us, and our educational experts will get back to you.

Resources

  • Basham, J. D., Hall, T. E., Carter Jr, R. A., & Stahl, W. M. (2016). An operationalized understanding of personalized learning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 31(3), 126-136.
  • Berry, R. (2018). Personalized Learning and Mathematics Teaching and Learning. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. https://www.nctm.org/News-and-Calendar/Messages-from-the-President/Archive/Robert-Q_-Berry-III/Personalized-Learning-and-Mathematics-Teaching-and-Learning/
  • Major, L. & Francis, G. A. (2020). Technology-supported personalised learning: Rapid Evidence Review. EdTechHub. 10.5281/zenodo.3948175
  • Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., & Powell, A. (2013). Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
  • Sofroniou, A., & Poutos, K. (2016). Investigating the effectiveness of group work in mathematics. Education Sciences, 6(3), 30.
  • Walkington, C., & Bernacki, M. L. (2020). Appraising research on personalized learning: Definitions, theoretical alignment, advancements, and future directions. Journal of research on technology in education, 52(3), 235-252.

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