Differentiating for Algebra Students with Learning Differences

A case study of Noble Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina

Teaching students with ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences requires a highly individualized approach. High school math teacher Barbara Knight found that implementing IXL Math and the Real-Time Diagnostic in her classroom was key in differentiating instruction for students with special needs. 

Creating a Classroom Where All Students Succeed

Barbara teaches Algebra I, Pre-algebra, and an intermediate course for 9th graders who are not yet ready for Algebra I. When she began teaching at Noble, she used paper worksheets. But Barbara quickly saw that this approach was not comprehensive enough to cover all of her students’ needs—and it was a strain on her time.

“I was stressed out,” she says. “I didn’t know how to differentiate for so many levels in one classroom. In my Foundations of Algebra class, I had some students coming in with math skills at a 2nd- or 3rd-grade level, and others who were working on grade level or even accelerated. I needed a way to quickly determine where they were and what skills they were missing.”

Differentiating Instruction with the Real-Time Diagnostic

The Real-Time Diagnostic provides the information that drives instruction in Barbara’s classes. The diagnostic assesses students across every concept in the K-12 curriculum, paints an accurate portrait of each learner’s abilities, and then guides them to skills that help them grow. 

In Barbara’s classroom, students dedicate one day per week to updating their diagnostic and working on their individual skill recommendations. On other days, Barbara assigns skill practice in IXL aligned to the standards they are covering in class. She monitors students’ scores in IXL to adjust the pace of instruction and plan individual or small-group remediation.

Motivating Students with the Real-Time Diagnostic

Barbara says that the diagnostic encourages her students to take more ownership of their learning and keeps them motivated to improve their skills. Best of all, Barbara’s students have demonstrated increased confidence in their ability to master higher-level math. “Seeing this kind of success is monumental for my students,” she says. “It’s opening new doors for them—in some cases putting them on a track towards four-year college that they weren’t on before.”

Continuing Learning At Home with IXL Math

In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Noble Academy to shift from a traditional school model to distance learning. IXL made the transition much easier for Barbara and her students.

Barbara conducted live, 15-minute classes for her students using virtual meeting software that allowed her to share her screen. She introduced the daily topic and pulled up five or six example problems on IXL that the class reviewed together. Then students practiced the skill independently for 30 minutes. At the end of their practice time, they logged back into the virtual meeting to review what they’d learned and to ask questions. Students attended each class two or three times per week while learning remotely.

Barbara says, “With IXL, the learning experience continued to be positive, even while they were working from home. My students continued to make progress, and some even jumped several levels!”

A copy of the full case study is available for download here.

To try out IXL in your classroom, visit www.ixl.com/membership/teachers/trial for a free 30-day trial!