The Importance of Student Choice in the Math Classroom

One of the most powerful ways to engage students in the learning process is by giving them a sense of control over their education. When students have the ability to make choices about what they learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate their knowledge, they become more invested in their education and are more likely to succeed. This is why I give student choice in my math classroom.

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What is Student Choice in the Classroom?

As educators, we’ve all heard the phrase “student choice” thrown around in professional development meetings or seen it in articles about the latest trends in education. But what does it really mean, and why is it so important?

Student choice refers to the idea that students should have a say in what they learn, how they learn it, and how they show what they’ve learned. This can take many forms, from allowing students to choose their own practice problems to letting them select from a variety of assessment options. 

The typical type-A math teacher might struggle giving up some control  in the classroom (I know I did the first time I tried student choice), but it is totally worth it! It is OK that not all students completed the same assignment at the same time in the same way.

Why is student choice so important?

First and foremost, student choice leads to increased engagement. When students have a say in their own learning, they are more invested in the process and more likely to take ownership of their work. This can lead to higher levels of motivation and enthusiasm for learning.

In addition, student choice allows for personalized learning. Every student is unique, with different strengths, interests, and learning styles. By giving students choice, we can better meet their individual needs and provide them with opportunities to learn in ways that work best for them. >>Read more about personalized learning in the math classroom.

Student choice also promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When students are given the freedom to explore and create, they are more likely to encounter challenges and obstacles. This, in turn, leads to opportunities for problem-solving and critical thinking as they work to overcome these challenges.

How can we incorporate student choice into our math classrooms?

  • Offer choice in assignments: Instead of assigning the same practice problems or worksheet to everyone, provide students with a variety of options to choose from. It can be as simple as complete half of the problems on a worksheet. Or give students a choice board. If you do a choice board, I highly recommend initialing beside the assignment as they complete it to save time later. Continue reading how to implement choice boards and download free templates and examples!
  • Offer choice in assessments: Instead of the whole class taking the same assessment, allow students to choose between a project, written test, presentation, etc. I do this about twice a year. Other simple ways to give students a choice in assessments is to allow them to complete the same assessment either on the computer or on paper. I give most of my assessments on Edulastic. I love it! However, some of my students prefer a paper copy and I am ok with that if it means they are more motivated.
  • Allow for flexible seating and learning spaces: Providing students with a variety of seating options and learning spaces (such as a standing desk or a collaborative work area) can give them the freedom to learn in the way that works best for them.
  • Encourage student-led discussions and instruction: Instead of always being the one delivering instruction, give students the opportunity to present content. I firmly believe the saying, “The person doing the most talking is doing the most learning”. The jigsaw method is great for this!

Student Choice in the Math Classroom

You can do it!

Of course, it’s important to remember that student choice should not be unlimited. Teachers still have a responsibility to ensure that students are meeting academic standards and learning goals. However, by incorporating student choice into the classroom in a thoughtful and intentional way, teachers can help to create a more engaging and effective learning environment for their students.

Student choice is an essential component of effective teaching and learning.  By giving students the freedom to choose, we can help foster a sense of ownership over the learning process, personalize learning to meet individual needs, and develop important life skills.

What ways to you incorporate or plan to incorporate student choice in your classroom? Let me know in the comments! Have a wonderful day!

Looking for a list of helpful math resources?

You don’t want to miss out on this Google Slides Binder.

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