I hear you teachers! Pressures on the job are mounting, yet you are determined to help your students feel successful. **The post covid classroom has many new challenges, not the least of which is a wider than-ever gap** between where our students **should be** and where they **are** in their learning. Learning gaps are bigger than ever!

According to US News and World Report, regarding learning gaps and the pandemic, “in some districts, students lost more than two years of math learning. In Hopewell, Virginia, a school system of 4,000 students who are mostly low-income and 60% black, **showed an average loss of 2.29 years of school.”**

Personally, out of a total of 49 students (between two classes) last year, **I had a grand total of 5 students testing on grade level! **This is in a notoriously high-achieving district. I even had a student 4 years behind, and many who were 2 and 3 years behind. But the crazy thing is, I know I’m not alone! It is this way everywhere currently. Are you seeing similar learning gaps?

Yet, I’m happy to report, that my end-of-the-year scores showed amazing growth, and learning gaps greatly decreased, thanks to the following strategies that I will not be gatekeeping.

## 1. Identify the Learning Gaps and the CAUSE of the Gaps.

I know firsthand it can become extremely discouraging to even try when learning gaps are huge, but first, we need to **identify the gaps.** This is done through your school’s testing program. It can also be done through informal observations. When working in small groups and if students get stuck, I will try to break the skill down and make it simpler. Often that leads to identifying the gaps in learning.

Many gaps we are currently seeing are Covid related. We all know that many students didn’t absorb the content during distance learning. For many kids, online learning, even with technological help, is not a good substitute for in-person; hands-on, “teacher-by-the-side learning”. These kids just need to experience the content they missed in a meaningful way to catch up.

However, **some may assume that it is Covid related, and later find out that there are learning challenges that need to be addressed.** Those kids need to have the extra tiers of support that they are entitled to for their needs to be met.

## 2. Have time for instruction on the current standards and a separate time for instruction in the gaps of learning.

It might be tempting to slow the pace of your curriculum to a screeching halt when big learning gaps are present, but that is not always the best practice. Certainly, when your class doesn’t quite grasp a concept and could, with an extra day or two of practice, that is the right thing to do!! However, **continuing to delay curriculum to the point where you will not give your class the standards they need during the year is not the answer.**

What you CAN do, however, is teach the current standard in the simplest way possible during a VERY short “whole group” lesson, and then provide practice during “small group” and “center” time, which will address some of the missing skills. When you are teaching both, you can bridge the learning gaps.

For example, when working with fourth graders on partial quotient division, I would explain the algorithm simply, but I would also encourage my low students to skip count by the divisor in the corner of their paper. This way, even students who were not fluent in their math facts yet, had a way to complete the problem.

Then, after a brief “whole group” lesson, pull students into small groups and work on remediating the current skill and, little by little, work on missing skills.

## 3. Use Technology

Admittedly, technology alone is not the answer here. However, it has tremendous advantages for differentiation for other students to get the practice they need while you are pulling small groups. There are MANY helpful programs to be used. Your school may have a subscription for a good one.

My favorite is Boom Cards tm . Boom cards are a GREAT way to assign the exact skills your students need. Many students just need a little more practice with tricky skills. But often during regular center practice, they end up practicing the skill incorrectly until it is graded, if it is graded at all. But Boom Cards tm give students immediate feedback so this doesn’t happen. In the yearlong bundle for 4th grade, there is a deck for every skill. Another great thing is that, depending on your membership, you can get data on each student. I use this to pull small groups and sometimes use it for formative assessments.

## 4. Use Your Daily Routine to Address Common Missing Skills

The skills that are most responsible for the learning gaps, are fact fluency and number sense. Both of these can lead to gaps, and when not addressed, also lead to feelings of inadequacy and a sense that they are not ABLE to learn math. **Yet when we implement Number Talks, Spiral Reviews, and Fluency exercises, these gaps are minimized.**

## 5. Communicate with Parents

Partner with parents to help them understand what their child needs. When they understand about missing skills, they are more likely to help the child. Provide them with skill-based resources they need to help. **Often, parents are lost as to why their child is struggling. ** They often assume that math just isn’t their child’s “thing”. This idea, especially when communicated to the child, is often damaging because it sets the child up to believe they will never “get” math when often it is merely a case of missing foundational skills. Showing them this demonstrates that this is fixable and their child CAN succeed. Parents need to hear this!

## 6. Encourage, encourage, encourage!

Addressing gaps promptly is so important to the student’s attitude about math. Students who don’t believe they can learn, will have less focus, and give less effort. This can also be mixed with anxiety that can prevent them from thinking correctly. I’ve seen this where seemingly bright kids, who feel like they can’t “get” something, can not even seem to add 2 + 2 because they start second-guessing everything! So, **helping them see what they ARE capable of, how they have grown, and when their thinking is really great is so important. ** We need to be their cheerleaders and continue to cultivate the growth mindset in our students.

In conclusion, closing the gaps in Math requires a lot of planning and effort, but it IS possible. I can tell you that at the end of the year I described earlier, my students’ scores rose tremendously. But what made me MOST happy is that many of them had changed their attitude about math. They saw themselves as capable and looked forward to math class! I call that a win! And you can too!

**Are you seeing large learning gaps in your math class this year? What is working?**

## Learn more:

**3 Number Sense Routines Guaranteed to Develop Confidence in Your Students**

**What can I do when my students’ learning gaps in Math are TOO big?!**

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