Math Intervention Assessment: Dos and Don’ts

Math intervention assessment is not the same as assessing tier 1 math instruction. Following these few simple tips will help you to determine who needs to receive math intervention and where you will start with instruction.

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Do Use Multiple Data Points…

Don’t Expect To Get It All From One Screener

It can be tempting to look for a screener that will assess each and every math standard so that you can see growth over the course of the year. Your district might even provide (or require) an assessment that aims to do just that.

Screening your students on every single math standard at your grade level is NOT a prerequisite to providing and monitoring meaningful math intervention. Here’s what to do instead:

Math Intervention Assessment: Determining Who Requires Math Intervention

The first step toward meaningful math intervention is to assess who might be in need of intervention. This decision needs to be based on more than a single assessment.

The good news is that many useful data points probably already exist! You might have access to:

  • A commercially produced screening assessment provided by your district
  • A computational fluency assessment
  • State test results from the previous grade level
  • Most recent report card grades (can be from the previous grade level!)
  • Teacher input (simply ask, is this student not meeting, working toward, at or above grade level on a daily basis)
  • Unit assessment data
  • etc.

Gather these data points and compile them into a spreadsheet and you will have a birds-eye view of your students and their needs across the board.

Do Assess Numbers & Place Value

Don’t Stress Over The Specific Assessment Tool

Math intervention should be focused largely on numbers and operations. Understand the range of numbers your students feel confident working with and their current level of understanding of operation and you will know exactly where to begin!

When considering your students understanding of numbers and place value, consider the following:

  • Do your students have a grasp of numbers to ten?
  • Do your students understand that teen numbers are composed of a ten and some ones?
  • Do your students need to spend time working with 2-digit numbers?
  • Are your students ready for 3-digit numbers or beyond?
  • Are fractions or decimals the numbers that are tripping your students up?

Your math intervention assessment does NOT need to be a fancy screener to answer these questions! And you certainly don’t need an assessment that answers ALL of these questions either! When considering your math intervention assessment strategy think about the grade level your students are in and work your way backward. Allow the standards at that grade level to guide your questions as you create your own *short* assessment.

Remember, the purpose of this math intervention assessment is to determine where your students are so that you can plan the most efficient and effective instruction possible for them.

Do Assess Operations

Don’t Forget to Look At BOTH Dimensions of Operations Understanding!

Next, you will want to determine what your students know and are able to do regarding operations instruction. There are two parts of this assessment.

  1. Do your students know what addition and subtraction and/or multiplication and division mean and what the operations do?
  2. Do your students have strategies for carrying out these operations.

It is not uncommon for a student to be missing one or both of these understandings. You will certainly encounter students who see the + sign and know “that means to grab the big number and count on” while having no understanding that addition simply means putting parts together. These students will run into trouble as numbers get larger because they *only* have a single strategy for addition and don’t understand what the operation actually means or does!

On the other hand, you will also encounter students who know that subtraction, for example, means taking away, taking apart or finding the difference but lack strategies to carry out the operation once numbers are too large to show on their own fingers.

It is also common for students to have an understanding of numbers and place value for numbers higher than they are comfortable working with in terms of carrying out operations.

For example, a student may have shown that they have an understanding of teen numbers and are ready to move ahead to place value instruction of 2-digit numbers. They are still, however, using “count all” strategies for numbers to ten.

Do Assess Often

Don’t Rely on Unit Assessments Alone

You’ll want to keep a close eye on your students’ progress for the purpose of planning instruction AND advocating for your students at data meetings, conferences, etc. In order to meet both of these needs you will need to continually give assessments (with a purpose!) over time.

This includes:

  1. Big Picture Screeners / Grade Level Data
  2. Strategy Growth Over Time
  3. Fact Fluency Growth Over Time

A data strategy with multiple data points ensures that you will have what you need in order to be responsive in your instruction but it also allows you to have the data you need should you find yourself in a situation where you are discussing student progress with parents, administrators or colleagues.

Download These Free Checklists

Download these FREE checklists to keep yourself focused and on track at the beginning of the school year!

Checklists have been included for kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Does another beginning of the year checklist seem overwhelming?

The full checklist does not need to be conducted at once!

  • Consider which items are rote skills that a parent or TA could assess.
  • Is there a quick way to incorporate this assessment into your daily routines?
  • Are there any items you want to be sure to conduct and observe yourself? Prioritize the items you want to see for yourself in a face-to-face interview.

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