Each student is different. Some will panic when faced with a math task. Some just need a little help. Some will move slowly. Some will move fast. Technology allows us to adjust both cognitive demand and cognitive resources. Based on performance we can dynamically make tasks easier or more complex, more concrete or more abstract. Keeping each student in his or her zone of proximal development, just on the edge of what is doable independently, is a beautiful thing. Few things are more satisfying than successfully completing a challenging task. Too easy is boring. Too hard is frustrating. But just hard enough is very rewarding (chemically, in the brain!). We like it.
At the same time, we can also adjust the resources, or supports, that a student has available to complete a task. We can offer alternative visualizations, definitions, and worked examples. Think back to my Verizon Wireless analogy a few entries ago. We can give students “the network” so that those scary math dead zones aren’t so daunting.