What is Looping?

If you walked into a math class at Vine, you’d see the teacher and one or two students passing math problems back and forth, keeping busy almost every second. They would be using wipe-off sheets and erasable markers to constantly add, correct and erase problems. In a single moment, you might see the teacher setting up a word problem with percentages, while the student is solving a problem on perimeter. “These problems have nothing in common!” you might think to yourself. “Why are they doing it like that?”

In the midst of this, you may notice something even more important…each student is doing math, a LOT of it, and doesn’t seem to mind it one bit!  In fact, it even appears that they’re having a bit of fun. This is one of our favorite strategies: Math Looping℠.

While looping, the teacher is simultaneously working on a multitude of math skills, one right after another. While doing this, she is adjusting the level of the next problem or question within each skill to adapt to each student’s level of readiness. For instance, if a student gets a simple equation correct in the first “loop,” their teacher will give them a slightly harder equation in the next “loop.” If a student incorrectly solves that equation, the teacher will offer  a slightly easier version in the next “loop.”

Math Looping is a tutoring technique rooted firmly in educational principles that are shown to work:

  • Students should be actively engaged with learning at every possible moment.

  • When students are learning, they should be doing… not just listening. The pencil should be in their hands

  • Students learn best in the “zone of proximal development.” This is the place where learning is challenging enough to be interesting, but never so challenging that it’s overwhelming. With looping, our teachers reflect on each question that their student answers, adjusting the difficulty level of the next activity to stay right in this zone.

  • Students need to be exposed to skills over and over again. Instead of teaching concepts in-depth from the beginning, we present each skill over a longer period of time, increasing the depth as the student is ready. This helps move information into long-term storage so students learn concepts to mastery level.

Math Looping is a service mark of Nurturing Wisdom, Inc. and was developed by
Amanda Vogel in her time as Vice President of Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring.