Differentiation in Investigations 3

All teachers are faced with the challenge of meeting the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms. This range can include students who struggle or excel in certain areas of mathematics (but perhaps not in others), students who are learning English, and students who have particular learning needs. Engaging and supporting all learners in making sense of and understanding mathematics are two goals of the Investigations curriculum, supported by a guiding principle that all students have mathematical ideas and can be mathematical thinkers. Investigations expects each and every student to solve interesting and challenging problems, in ways that make sense to them, including those who do not feel confident about their math or communication skills and those who opt to stay on the periphery.

The curriculum is explicitly designed to help teachers create a positive and inclusive learning environment that is responsive to the needs of each learner and supports them in developing a strong mathematical identity. In addition, Investigations helps teachers learn what each student knows and understands and supports them in using this knowledge to differentiate instruction in ways that maintain the cognitive demand and deepen mathematical understanding. Such support is embedded throughout the curriculum, to aid in planning to meet the individual needs of students. This support includes:

Supporting the Range of Learners in the Investigations Classroom

This essay, found on pp. 52-55 of Implementing Investigations 3 in Grade [5], describes the approach the curriculum takes to differentiation, and explains each of the 8 strategies used in the differentiation suggestions that are embedded in the sessions.

Implementing Investigations 3 in Grade [5], p. 52 (click to enlarge)

Supporting English Language Learners in the Investigations Classroom

Also found in Implementing Investigations 3 in Grade [5], this essay (pp. 56-58) lays out the philosophy and pedagogy around work with multilingual learners, and describes each of the 8 strategies used in the suggestions for differentiating for English Language Learners that are embedded in the sessions.

English Language Learners Essay

Implementing Investigations 3 in Grade [5], p. 56 (click to enlarge)

The instructional strategies introduced in these essays are designed to help teachers scaffold and extend the mathematical ideas and language of a given activity. They are not mutually exclusive and may be a matter of perspective, with one having elements of another. The strategies are intended to relate to and connect with each other. While they are linked to specific activities, they can also be generalized to use during other activities and instructional situations.

Students display their drawings of Pilar's yard.

“Before, I understood supporting a range of learners in a narrow sense, meaning supporting struggling students. Now I view my role in a broader sense, as supporting all students and moving everyone’s thinking forward.”

– Online Course Participant

Range of Learners Strategies

Range of Learners Strategies

Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 16 (click to enlarge)

ELL Strategies

English Language Learners Strategies

Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 16 (click to enlarge)

Differentiation in This Unit

Found in the front matter of every unit, this 2-page spread contains:

  • A table highlighting session-specific suggestions for differentiated instruction in the unit
  • Information about the different types of strategies used in the intervention and extension suggestions, and in the suggestions for English-language learners
  • A section of unit-specific ideas for supporting students whose first language is not English
  • Information about the Expanded Differentiation Activities in this unit and when they might be used (in all but Kindergarten)

Grade 5, Unit 1, pp. 16-17 (click to enlarge)

Differentiation: Supporting the Range of Learners

Most sessions include a section titled “DIFFERENTIATION: Supporting the Range of Learners,” which always follows and is related to an “ONGOING ASSESSMENT: Observing the Students at Work” section. Together, these features highlight the important math ideas in an activity, ask questions about how students are approaching and engaging with those ideas, and suggest ways to differentiate instruction based on those observations.

Observing Students at Work

Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 92 (click to enlarge)

Supporting the Range of Learners

Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 93 (click to enlarge)

The differentiation suggestions offer ideas for intervention and extension, and for supporting English Language Leaners, with the activities in the session. As mentioned above, these targeted recommendations involve instructional strategies – 8 for the intervention and extension suggestions, and 8 for the ELL suggestions – that are designed to support students with the mathematics and language of a specific activity, and to support teachers more generally.

Expanded Differentiation Activities

Each Investigation—except in Kindergarten—ends with three 15-30 minute activities that can be used, outside of regular math time, to provide additional support (Intervention) or practice (Practice), or additional challenge (Extension). Some students may complete more than one of these activities in an investigation.


Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 109 (click to enlarge)


Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 110 (click to enlarge)


Grade 5, Unit 1, p. 111 (click to enlarge)

Resources from Prior or Later Grades

Investigations includes digital games and Math Words and Ideas (MWI), sortable by content and by grade. (This document shows where each MWI is referenced in each unit, K-5.) Reviewing these resources, in prior and later grades, can help teachers support students in ways that use familiar materials, games, and activities. 

Learn More

To learn more, watch our 45-minute webinar about differentiation in Investigations 3:

and/or our Burst Series about supporting the range of learners, which includes five 30-minute sessions focused on:

  • Session 1: Eight Strategies for Differentiation
  • Session 2: Examining Strategies for Differentiation
  • Session 3: Differentiating Games in K-2
  • Session 4: Differentiating Games in Grades 3-5
  • Session 5: Using the Expanded Differentiation Activities