Differentiated unit plans

The starting point for these plans is the recognition that there are at least six Victorian Curriculum levels of performance in a typical middle-years classroom. This is well researched, and is born out by the experience of almost all teachers. The gap is wider further up the secondary school, and smaller at lower primary.

This leads to the need to allow students to learn at different levels. Note that this is a focus on learning and not teaching. Students will learn best when the material is in their 'zone of maximal development' - or in lay terms, when they are expected to learn at their own level. This is the essence of differentiation. It also improves success levels and hence motivation and reduces rowdy behaviour. Because all students work only on tasks at their own levels, each topic takes less time than usual.

The challenge of accommodating six different levels is most readily done by most teachers in two different ways, and both are needed.

  1. The class is divided into mixed-level groups (of about four students), and they engage in open-ended whole-class investigations led by the teacher, but featuring group work.
  2. The class is split into three sections, each containing students working at two levels of the Victorian curriculum. In simple terms this is the middle, top and bottom. These do not need to be of the same size. Each section could have from zero to many groups of about four students.

In the plans that follow, the whole-class investigation alternates with a cycle of three sessions of targeted teaching to one level, while the others work on resources specifically written for their levels. This can also include ICT and problem-solving tasks if you have them. It may also include textbook exercises for those students who can manage them with little direction from the teacher.

Below each table, the student activities (investigations, worksheets and ICT) are also supplied on a list, organised by resources, from which you can easily create a set of tasks suited to the students at the three levels. The targeted teaching is listed in the 'complete' tables, but not on the student activity lists. Also below is a link to the Student activity lists in the editable format for the Classroom Organiser program - for those schools who own it. 

The first whole-class session investigation could be used to assist place the students into correct sections. This session may also include some diagnostic tools for this purpose; these include previous years' questions from NAPLAN (with answers) on the topic to be taught, and the same for TIMSS. Some schools let students choose their own level; they find a suitable level of challenge quickly.

Also listed at the top of each unit are two 'settle and warm-up' ideas. These are Numeracy games (with regular playing cards or 10-sided dice) and spreadsheets that randomly generate '10 quick questions' to review many levels of skill.

At the top of each table are links to the relevant Content Descriptions for all six levels. These, and the need for review, have formed the basis for selection of resources below. The Content Descriptions could form the basis of an observation checklist and a way of coding the achievement of each student during the unit. For this reason the content descriptions are provided as a list in the section Assessment Criteria at the left.

Emphasise understanding

Each plan is linked to the appropriate content descriptions for the six levels of the Victorian Curriculum in that dimension. 

The open-ended whole-class investigations focus on problem solving, reasoning, fluency and understanding of the big ideas. These are the 'Proficiencies' that are the major goals of mathematics teaching in the Victorian Curriculum.

The targeted teaching provides links to more specific understandings that are the major goals of each Victorian Curriculum level. The links lead to sets of hands-on teaching ideas to build the understandings at each level. This teaching will be to a small number of students while the others are working.

The worksheets and ICT focus on building skills through understanding. No textbooks are mentioned, but suitable parts of textbooks may be used for learners who can use them without much support.

For development of understanding two aspects of pedagogy are essential:
hands-on material
(real-world or otherwise) and group work to allow conversation.

Accessing the resources

This entire structure would be too much work for any teacher unless it was fully resourced. It is this that MAV has been able to do. Blue links are to free resources. This includes DET (Victoria), overseas websites and material in the 'free' area of this website.

Green links are to material that must be purchased. This includes Maths300 (from MAV), and MAV CDs. For owners of the MAV resources linked within the Differentiated Unit Plans or Victorian Curriculum (VC) Levels on this site, hyperlinks to MAV CDs will download the content from this website.

The home page of this website includes a list of all the MAV resources, with links to their position in the MAV online shop. Shopping trolleys may be paid for by school order number or personal cheque. Note that MAV members automatically get a 20% discount on all purchases. 

Unlinked resources are non-electronic books, also available from MAV online shop. You will find links to enable you to purchase these items from the shop on the Home page of this site.


Some Acrobat files have now been replaced by Acrobat Forms - allowing students to complete the written part of the task on screen. This will save you a very large amount of photocopying (both time and money), and save a few trees. The form version should open in your internet browser, and can be completed from there.

Students may save the page to their own digital folder, or even email it to you (the teacher) for checking.

However it is possible that this might require the latest (free) version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. It should be downloaded and installed from this site:



Example videos

Member Login


Something not working?

Have you found a broken link?

Please email Ian Lowe with the details and we'll fix it as quickly as possible.

To access the links to the publications on the TM4U area of our site you need to be a staff member of a member school or an individual member that has purchased these resources.  To check access permission please email the MAV at office@mav.vic.edu.au