Some Sprints are too hard for some of my students. Should I give different Sprints to different students?

Sprints are designed for ALL students to feel successful, but also challenged. The notion of a “hard” Sprint is paradoxical to the tool’s definition. Stated differently:  A “hard Sprint” is really not a Sprint, because the tool should only be delivered after students have achieved mastery of the topic.

I recommend carefully examining Sprints before delivering them to your students. Ask yourself:

Will each student in the class correctly answer one problem every five to six seconds?

If the answer is “No”, then you already know one or more of your students will become frustrated during the activity. Select a different Sprint or replace a few problems with easier ones so that all students will be able to feel successful. Confidence is vital to succeeding in elementary mathematics.

Next, examine the last ten to 15 problems. Ask yourself:

Will any of the students be able to complete the Sprint in under one minute?

If the answer is “Yes”, consider making the last five to ten problems harder.  Or, at the very least, give students a challenging multiple to count by should they finish early. Every student should work for one minute. For the routine to be dynamic, children need motivation to work hard on Sprint B. This won’t happen if they are under-challenged and/or have no opportunity to improve.

Instill confidence through effusive success and humility through consistent challenges and math class will always be dynamic!

For the following reasons, I am deeply opposed to giving weak students different Sprints than the majority of the class, even if the topic and answers are the same for everyone.

  • If a student is given an easier Sprint than some of their classmates, the ceiling of what they can achieve is lowered - especially if they want to take the unfinished Sprint home to practice.

  • If a student becomes aware that they are working on different problems than their classmates, the students who receive the easier problem set become stigmatized.