What evidence-based mathematics instructional strategies can teachers employ?

Page 7: Peer Tutoring

student pairIn peer tutoring, two students work together on an instructional activity (e.g., learning multiplication tables, practicing two-digit addition with carrying). The pairs of students can be of the same or different ability levels. Two peer-tutoring approaches (i.e., Peer Assisted Learning Strategies [PALS] Math, ClassWide Peer Tutoring for mathematics) have been shown through research to be highly effective for teaching mathematics. These strategies have several features in common:

  • Reciprocal peer tutoring (i.e., during the session, each student in the pair serves as a coach and as a tutee).

    Note: The method below can be used with first through twelfth graders to create mixed-ability pairs.

    Step 1: Rank the students

    Ranks students based on their mathematics skills. In the example below, the teacher administered a quick mathematics assessment with a maximum score of 50.

    Name Mathematics score
    Micah 48
    Emma 46
    Chase 42
    Katie 39
    Zach 37
    Avery 37
    Carlos 35
    Damarcus 34
    Diondre 33
    Madalyn 33
    Ethan 32
    blue_line_320

    Zoe 30
    Kana 30
    Noah 29
    Shante 28
    Aliya 27
    Alexis 27
    Antoine 23
    Hannah 20
    Garrison 12
    Sherise 8
    Grant 6

    arrow Step 2: Divide list
    Divide the list of students in half.

    Step 3: Move the halves next to each other

    Arrange the halves side-by-side and pair the higher-performing student in the first list to the corresponding lower-performing student in the second. Continue this process until all of the students have been paired.

    HIGHER
    PERFORMANCE LEVEL
    Micah 48
    Emma 46
    Chase 42
    Katie 39
    Zach 37
    Avery 37
    Carlos 35
    Damarcus 34
    Diondre 33
    Madalyn 33
    Ethan 31
    arrow
    LOWER
    PERFORMANCE LEVEL
    Zoe 30
    Kana 30
    Noah 29
    Shante 28
    Aliya 27
    Alexis 27
    Antoine 23
    Hannah 20
    Garrison 12
    Sherise 8
    Grant 6
    arrowPair 1

  • Frequent verbal interaction and feedback between the coach and tutee
  • Use of positive reinforcement
  • A competitive game format
  • Teacher monitoring and feedback

The video below depicts two students engaged in one mathematics PALS activity. Notice that the students switch roles, engage in frequent verbal prompts, provide each other with feedback, and use positive reinforcement. In addition, the teacher monitors the students, provides feedback, and (upon leaving) awards the students points (time: 2:29).

View Transcript

Peer tutoring was not designed as a method of teaching new skills. Rather, it provides students opportunities to practice a newly learned skill or to review mathematics skills while receiving feedback.

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