Maths Without Limits
Opening Young Minds to Endless Possibilities
Self-differentiating through Multi-level Challenges

Multi-level challenges have been around in a number of forms for a while.  Essentially the idea is that activities are provided at a number of different levels (usually three), vis:

  • Bronze, silver and gold challenges
  • One star, two star, three star challenges
  • Chilli challenges (mild, spicy and hot)

where the most confident children are directed to try the three star (hot) activity, while the least confident try the one star (mild) activity.

To make the most effective use of these, the teacher will guide each pupil initially to the level that they judge to be most appropriate for them, but will also encourage a child to try a harder level if they would like to increase their challenge, or to move to an easier level if they are finding a topic more difficult.

For this to work, it is important to have a culture of respect in the classroom, where all levels are considered to be of value.

Once a teacher and a group of children are familiar with the basic idea, it can be further developed as follows:

  • provide the children with all three levels of challenge but don’t say which is which, and ask each child to choose the activity that looks most appropriate for them
  • combine the multi-level challenges with stop-check marking (see below) by encouraging the children either to continue with their chosen level of activity or to move to a different level of challenge depending on how they have done in the previous set of questions