During study hall a while ago we had a discussion about differentiation. I know, study hall is that class where students sit around and stare at the wall for 40 minutes (complete stereotypical sarcasm). The teacher said "It's really hard to get used to this differentiation junk. It's all one on one." She's right, math is hard to differentiate because it's all equations and steps. She stressed, "If you don't follow the steps you will not get it." It isn't conceptual like social studies, language arts, or science is. There are steps to take and you won't get the right answer without doing those steps.
She's tried differentiating on the same topic, it is hard to do when we only spend one to two days on a subject. The way she has been doing it is having 1-2 table groups that got their independent practice problems correct and have a secure understanding of the subject, do more challenging problems on the same concept while she reviews with the rest of the class. For example the class may be reviewing linear equations for the second day, while the advanced group gets introduced to linear inequalities a day earlier than the rest of the class.
We also talked about quality versus quantity of work. "I'd rather have them work their way through two homework problems and get them right, not do all 20 assigned problems wrong." she said, "Technology has turned kids into instant learners. If you don't get it right the first time quickly, you give up easily."
How do you differentiate your math room? What were your attempts at differentiation to get you where you are now? Is independent practice mandatory or optional?