Evolving Past Direct Instruction in Math: Using SMART amp to Deliver Real-Time Differentiation

A SMART Customer story with Henry Varum, 8th Grade Mathematics Teacher

Teachers and School

Henry Varum, 8th Grade Math Teacher
Ann Street School, Newark, NJ
Manuel Oliveira, Technology Coach
Ann Street School, Newark, NJ
Timothy Nellegar, Instructional Technology
Newark Public Schools


To meet the differentiated needs of 30+ general education, inclusion and ELL students who have both Spanish and Portuguese speaking backgrounds.


Henry was able to engage his students and enhance his lessons to support each of their individual learning needs in real time.

Motivation: A Shift in Pedagogical Strategy

Ann Street School in Newark, NJ, is the educational center of a vibrant multilingual community in the city’s Ironbound district. It serves 1,400 Newark Public School pre-kindergarten to 8th grade students coming from varied backgrounds. A third of Ann Street School students are in programs to develop sufficient English language skills to allow them to learn in a general classroom setting.

In order to differentiate the delivery of curriculum content to each learner in his classes, Henry Varum knew he needed a technology tool that would allow him to effectively engage all of his students, and address Newark Public School’s district-wide mathematics “big investments.” He chose to use SMART amp in his classroom because it provided him with a multi-faceted education solution that could:

  1. Deliver balanced mathematics instruction.
  2. Create habits of discussion.
  3. Facilitate active monitoring and formative assessment.

His objective with SMART amp was to create an environment where all of his students’ needs were individually met — one where they could safely express themselves independently, in small group settings, and during whole group projects.

“SMART amp was able to provide my students with an effective and interactive learning experience. My students were engaged and eager to share their understanding through creative and individualized ways.”

Collaboration + Big Investments = Improved Methods of Differentiation

With SMART amp, Henry was able to engage his students and enhance his lessons (previously conducted via pencil and paper) in a meaningful way that supported each of their individual learning needs in real time. Additionally, he felt the functionality and capabilities provided by SMART amp allowed his learners to begin developing and delivering content rather than just consuming it.

Outcome: Enhanced Discourse & Expression Through Differentiation

Henry felt SMART amp changed his students’ learning experiences, and made math visual for each of them. He saw how it allowed them to explore higher-order thinking skills in an online creative environment — one that encouraged them to safely take risks and own their problem-solving techniques. He also observed how it helped foster more peer-to-peer collaboration between his students.

Henry effectively implemented SMART amp in his classroom, and differentiated math content for his students to achieve each of the objectives below. He was able to:

  1. Deliver balanced mathematics instruction by spending more time delivering quality instruction. By using SMART amp, Henry was able to encourage a deeper mathematical understanding of content, and increase student consumption and outcomes for his students.
  2. Create habits of discussion by moving away from direct instruction, and challenging his students’ thinking. He saw how SMART amp enabled his students to provide a more authentic demonstration of their learning through increased discourse and expression.
  3. Facilitate active monitoring and formative assessment in real time. SMART amp allowed him to provide continuous differentiated instruction, as he could monitor his students’ work and provide instant feedback.

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Posted: June 27, 2017
in Outcome Studies