Book a session

Meeting Children Where They Are At: Creating Inclusive Learning Environments

games inclusion math community math workshop Feb 06, 2024

Inclusion is about meeting children where they are and celebrating their growth from that point forward. While we have a curriculum to follow, it's entirely possible to uphold its standards while also accommodating individual needs. I firmly believe in (and have experienced!) this possibility! Utilizing multiple entry points is crucial for meeting children at their respective levels. Two key considerations in employing multiple entry points are incorporating games and fostering open-ended problem-solving opportunities.


Games offer a versatile approach as not all children need to engage in the same version of a game. Allowing children to self-select the level of challenge within a game is one effective method of catering to diverse learners. Building a repertoire of games for your class can facilitate this process. While I advocate for introducing only one new game per week at the beginning of the school year, once you have a few in rotation, I encourage children to self-select a game that presents an appropriate challenge for them and their partner.

This might mean holding a class discussions about what constitutes a meaningful challenge, accompanied by sharing mindset messages and scaffolding conversations on "how to recognize what makes a good challenge." These discussions reinforce the idea that growth occurs through overcoming challenges and that each individual has their own unique challenge zone.

You might also consider having children modify the rules of the game originally taught to increase, or decrease the challenge level of it. Children love to create new or different rules and not only does this support multiple entry points for all learners, it also promotes creativity and critical thinking!

Open-ended problems or rich tasks:

Open ended or rich tasks can support multiple entry points in many ways. They can be tasks that have multiple/different answers, tasks that can be approached or solved in multiple different ways or a combination of both. As stated in Teaching Math Through Problem Solving, by NCTM “Each of your students will do things his or her own way. This statement does not mean that all students will develop the same ideas or develop them at the same pace. But all children can think and all children can and must be given opportunities to learn.”

Uncertainty can be a challenging emotion to navigate, particularly given historical and cultural perceptions of math as having a singular correct answer, and in some cases, a single method for arriving at that answer. As educators, embracing this uncertainty and trusting the process is essential in mathematics. Utilizing math goals and identifying student strengths are two strategies to navigate this uncertainty (though it may never fully dissipate — a testament to the caring nature of educators!). Math goals can help pinpoint areas for growth, guide children in approaching problems (considering variations of strategies and or organization), and serve as a visual reminder that we are all progressing in different ways. Recognizing the diverse strengths of our mathematicians also reinforces the value and celebration of variability in children's ideas and understandings.

One, perhaps unpopular notion, regarding how rich tasks cater to all learners is the recognition that not all children need to fully complete the task. For instance, when doubling a recipe, some learners may only be capable of doubling certain parts, such as doubling 1 cup to 2 cups or ½ cup to 1 cup. They may not be able to complete the entire recipe (doubling ¾ cup or 2 ¼ cups). This is where the math workshop model proves beneficial. During sharing, as a community, we collaborate to double the entire recipe, as a community. While teachers often strive for task completion, there's merit in considering whether leaving tasks unfinished encourages active listening during sharing sessions — as everyone has some missing pieces, fostering an inherent need to listen to peers for the betterment of the community. After all, just as adults, children may not relish attending ‘meetings’ where they already possess all the answers. Reframing this concept helps us meet all learners where they are and facilitates sharing with a community driven purpose.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you currently incorporate open-ended, rich tasks or games in your classroom to accommodate diverse learners? (Notice it, name it and nurture it!)
  • In what ways do you embrace uncertainty in mathematics instruction, and how does this attitude impact student learning and engagement?
  • How do you utilize math goals to guide student growth and foster a growth mindset in mathematics?
  • How can you reframe the concept of incomplete tasks to promote active listening and collaboration during sharing sessions in your classroom?
  • In what ways do you facilitate discussions with your class about what constitutes a meaningful challenge, and how do you encourage students to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth?
  • How do you balance the need to follow curriculum standards with the imperative to provide inclusive and differentiated instruction that meets the needs of all learners?

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Mathematizing 24.7
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.   

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.