Student Choice and Differentiation with Menus

At this time in the school year, many teachers are busy with guided math or station groups where they are providing necessary interventions and challenge opportunities for their students. Planning for the various needs of a full classroom of students can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process. If you’re in need of a fun and creative way to reduce your workload and create more engagement for your students, menus may be the right choice for you.

Menus are a great way to add some challenge and pizzazz to your everyday mathematics curriculum and differentiate learning for a variety of student needs at the same time. A menu is a content-focused set of options from which students choose activities and tasks on which to work. Students can receive a menu for a specific time-period, such as a week, for a particular unit of study, or for a grading cycle. Menus provide instant opportunities for differentiation because students choose which activities they would like to complete based on their own interest and ability levels.

In today’s post, I’m sharing four of my favorite menus with you and how they can create instant opportunities for differentiation in the classroom.

Menu 1: Choice Boards

How to Use It

To complete this board, students need to complete all of the activities in a column, row, diagonal, or the four corners. For the “Free Choice” space, students submit an idea for approval. The idea can be a task from one of the other spaces as long as it provides the desired level of challenge as determined by the teacher.


Differentiation with this menu can be accomplished by the placement of the tasks. Placing similar level tasks along the same completion path, i.e. rows, columns, diagonals, or the four corners, will create opportunities for students to complete tasks based on their learning needs. In addition, because this menu is simpler than some of the others I will share today, multiple menus can be created for different groups of students to allow for choice with tasks that meet a variety of achievement levels.

* Read more about Choice Boards and download a free template here!


Menu 2: Game Show Menu

How to Use It

The game show menu allows students to choose tasks based on a specific “category,” the columns, and earn points based on the difficulty or challenge level of the task. For this menu, students complete one activity from each “category,” or column, and accumulate a target number of points. This menu also includes opportunities for students to get creative and submit their own ideas for products.


To differentiate with this menu, lower the target number of points for some students so that they could successfully complete the menu just by completing the lowest-point value task in each category.

* Read more about the Game Show Menu and download a free template here!


Menu 3: List Menu

How to Use It

A list menu presents tasks as a list and students choose which activities to complete from the list of eligible tasks with the expectation that they will obtain a pre-determined number of points in order to complete the menu. Like the menus shared previously, the list menu also has a free choice option where students present an idea and agree on a point value upon approval.


Like the choice board, this menu is simple enough to create multiple versions in order to meet the various learning needs of the students in your classroom. The point goal can also be adjusted to reflect the needs of different students. A lower point goal would be most appropriate for students who will be completing the tasks that require a lower level of cognitive demand (and earn fewer points).

* Read more about List Menus and download a free template here.


Menu 4: 20-50-80 Menu

How to Use It

A 20-50-80 menu includes tasks that are assigned a 20-point, 50-point, or 80-point value. For this menu, students choose two activities to complete from the list totaling 100 points. The menu includes two 20-point tasks, four 50-point tasks, and two 80-point tasks. Because of its structure, students must choose one 20-point task and one 80-point task or two 50-point tasks.


Due to the limited number of choices on this menu, the best way to differentiate with it would be to create two or three different menus and assign them to students based on their academic performance level or learning needs.

* Read more about the 20-50-80 Menu here!


A Final Note about Menus

Each of the menus can be tailored to meet the needs of your students. While it may appear as though you need a lot of activities in order to assign each menu, I encourage you to reuse product ideas. For example, a task that may be worth very little on a menu that is designed for your high achievers may appear as a product with a high point-value on a menu for your lower achievers.

Also, don’t be afraid you use what’ve you got on hand. You can include textbook assignments and workbook pages on your menus. Some students will prefer to do these tasks instead of some of the more involved ones. The key to success– vary the types of tasks and products that you chose so that all students can feel successful.

Note: These menu ideas originated from Differentiating with Menus by Laurie Westphal.

Sound Off! How do you differentiate for students in your classroom? Respond in the comments below.

Using math menus with my students was a game-changer for me and has quickly become one of my favorite differentiation strategies, especially for my gifted students. Menus provide opportunities for my students to create products and complete activities that are not only fun but also engaging. And, using these templates makes it super easy for me to design a great menu.
Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.