Personalized Learning in Mathematics
The Kansas State Department of Education in conjunction with many PreK - 16 math leaders across the state recently completed work around the areas of personalized learning, real-world application, and student success skills in mathematics.
Under the guidance of Melissa Fast, KSDE Education Consultant - Mathematics, the lead team included:
  • Personalized Learning: Dr. Debbie Thompson, Renee Smith, and Dr. Lee Anne Coester
  • Real-World Application:  Bonnie Austin and Lara Staker
  • Student Success Skills: Dr. Julie Thiele and Jolene Goodheart Peterson

   Personalized Learning - It's what students deserve.

  Personalizing learning places the whole child at the center of instruction. It is informed by strong educator/student/family/community relationships to provide equity and choice in time, path, pace, and demonstration of learning. 
Personalized learning is instruction tailored to each student based on the student’s strengths, needs and interests. Through a personalized learning approach, teachers are better able to:
  • Understand each student’s personal and academic background, strengths and needs.
  • Help each student develop ownership of their learning.
  • Provide students targeted instruction, practice and support in areas where they are struggling.
  • Help students communicate effectively.
  • Help students learn how to learn.
  • Students will have the choice to learn in the time they need, at the pace they need, in the setting in which they learn best and on a path that matches their interests and passions.
 Personalized learning provides opportunities for increased interaction with teachers and peers and encourages higher levels of student engagement. The ultimate goal is to ensure each student is adequately prepared with the knowledge and skills they need for college or career.
What is Personalized Learning in Mathematics?

According to current research, there is not a consensus in the mathematics education community concerning the definition of personalized learning.  However, personalized learning is reflected in each of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Teaching Practices.  NCTM president, Robert Q. Barry III, delineated this connection in his President’s Message entitled Personalized Learning and Mathematics Teaching and Learning. Intentional implementation of these teaching practices naturally support the goals of personalized learning.

Below are great resources to help build your understanding around personalized learning in mathematics.
How is Personalized Learning directly connected to the student Standards for Mathematical Practice and Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices?
There is an iterative and complex relationship between the Standards for Mathematical Practices, the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices and Personalized Learning. There is not a one-to-one correlation or a simple stimulus-response relationship.  Teachers should implement the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices, which encourage students to develop co-academic knowledge, attitudes and skills that are woven into the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Personalized learning is connected to the teaching practices in the NCTM article by Robert Q. Berry III .  When teachers intentionally use these teaching practices then the student practices are reflected in the lesson. 

Are there limitations within this area for mathematics? Are there instructional practices that should be avoided for mathematics?

Deep mathematical understanding is built on student discourse, use of tools, and collaborative work. Therefore, personalized learning means finding ways to personalize the math instruction within a well-constructed lesson which includes a balance of all math teaching practices.

Practices to be avoided are well defined in NCTM's publication of Principles to Action on page 11.  They include:
  • Practicing procedures and memorizing basic number combinations.
  • Using only standard algorithms and prescribed procedures for solving algebraic problems.
  • Learning how to apply mathematics only after mastering basic skills.
  • Telling students exact definitions, formulas, and rules and demonstrating how to use them to solve problems.
  • Having students memorize information for the purposes of solving routine problems on homework, quizzes, and tests.
  • Making the math easy for students by guiding them step by step through problem solving to avoid frustration and confusion. 
What does Personalized Learning look like in the mathematics classroom?


The following productive actions apply to Personalized Learning.

Likewise, the following unproductive actions often do not apply to Personalized Learning.

  Download Copy of Productive & Unproductive Actions for Personalized Learning

Download Copy of Expanded Productive & Unproductive Actions for Personzalized Learning

Productive Practices
(What it is IS)
Unproductive Practices
(What it is NOT)
Technology used as one of many instructional strategies
Solely computer-based instruction
Building procedural fluency from conceptual understanding
Strictly computation/procedural based content
Use of a variety of resources including concrete materials, visuals, multimedia
Over reliance on worksheets and textbook
A balance of grouping - whole/small group/individual, homogeneous/heterogeneous, long & short term groupings, collaboration
Students working only independently
Classroom discourse allowing students to share and compare results
Teacher-dominated conversations
Teacher and student interaction, especially on new concepts - teacher scaffolding as needed
Students teaching themselves
Tasks chosen based on state standards, student interest and relevance
Story problems from textbook to which student cannot relate
Low floor/high ceiling tasks with multiple entry points
Only providing story problems with one solution method
Encouraging productive struggle on appropriate challenges
Students struggling to the point of frustration/anxiety
Multiple assessment methods (including formative) used to determine mastery of topics
Assessment based only on computer-generated results
Requiring student DOK 3 or 4 before progressing
Allowing students to progress with only DOK 1 or 2


What instructional strategies are appropriate for Personalized Learning in mathematics?
Multiple scaffolding strategies allowing all students to successfully complete a task might include:  
  • Multiple number sizes 
  • Multiple entry points
  • Use of manipulatives, 
  • Variety of acceptable student strategies 
Pacing (or time) needed to develop conceptual understanding should be adapted to individual students.
Resources for Personalized Learning in Mathematics
Click on column header to sort.
Personalized Learning and Mathematics Teaching and Learning – NCTM President Robert BerryArticlePersonalized learning is connected to the teaching practices in the NCTM article by Robert Q. Berry III. When teachers intentionally use these teaching practices then the student practices are reflected in the lesson.
Personalized Learning ArticleMultiple reports on personalized learning
Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education ArticleArticle by iNacol scanning the literature and explaining key terms behind personalized learning.
Special Report: Personalized Learning: 4 Big Questions Shaping the MovementArticleArticle discusses four big questions around personalized learning.
Personalized Learning: What is it? ArticleBill and Melinda Gates Foundation explanation about personalized learning.
What Personalized Learning Is Not ArticleArticle from EdSurge detailing myths surrounding personalized learning.
Personalized Learning Isn’t about TechArticleArticle from Edutopia describing the need to develop students’ social and emotional skills and decision making tools.
Technology is a ToolBlogBlog post by former NCTM president, Cathy Seeley describing the role technology plays in mathematics.
Thank You, Mr. BenderBlogBlog post by former NCTM president, Cathy Seeley describing mathematics instruction that helped her develop a love of math.
Fluency: Simply Fast, and Accurate? I Think Not!BlogBlog post by former NCTM president, Linda M. Gojak describing her understanding of what it means to be fluent in mathematics.
Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices - NCTMBookCoherent set of professional learning experiences designed to foster teachers’ understanding of the effective mathematics teaching practices and their ability to apply those practices in their own classrooms
Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All - NCTMBookSpecific, research-based teaching practices that are essential for a high-quality mathematics education for each and every student are combined with core principles to build a successful mathematics program at all levels.
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics DiscussionsBookfive practices for planning and managing powerful conversations in mathematics classrooms, updated with current research and new insights on anticipating, lesson planning, and lessons learned from teachers, coaches, and school leaders
Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics – Van de Walle, Lovin, Karp, Bay-WilliamsBookThis resource provides practical strategies and techniques for teaching mathematics centered around best practices.This resource is not intended to define personalized learning but to give supports in creating a mathematics environment that values student
Depth-of-Knowledge (DOK) Levels for MathematicsPDFDescription of DOK levels and math skills associated with them.
Kansas Can Definition and GraphicPDFKSDE redesign definition and graphic on personalized learning.
Rich Tasks and Productive StrugglePresentationJohn SanGiovanni’s NCTM presentation describing rich tasks and productive struggle. Connects productive struggle to mindset information. Scroll to page 34 for productive struggle text begins on page 49
YouCubed - Visual MathematicsWebsiteVariety of resources and activities about why and how math should be taught visually.
YouCubed TasksWebsiteSite to find appropriate tasks
YouCubed Assessment and GradingWebsiteMultiple resources for shifting assessment from performance to learning.
YouCubed - Group WorkWebsiteVariety of resources to describe an approach to group work found to combat inequities and promote high achievement.
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Math DiscussionsWebsiteDescription of the 5 practices for productive math discussions
Robert Kaplinsky LessonsWebsiteSite to find appropriate tasks
Fluency is More than Mere SpeedWhite PaperArticle from the KCCRS describing the components of procedural fluency in mathematics
Contact Information


Marcia Fiorentino
Mathematics Program Consultant
(785) 296-3486

Senior Administrative Assistant
(785) 296-3142


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