5 Elements of a Strong Math Intervention Plan

It’s so easy to get caught up in the ever-growing list of things you should or could be doing during your math intervention time but I’m more interested in simplifying and implementing the basics well!

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The #1 resource I will recommend when it comes to knowing the absolute *musts* in terms of your math intervention strategy is this document from the What Works Clearinghouse. It is a clear, concise and research-based document with clear recommendations for your math intervention block. It is a document that I have come back to dozens (if not hundreds) of times myself. If you are an interventionist, I HIGHLY recommend you print this document and keep it nearby in the year ahead!

Beyond that document, you will find a number of themes in terms of best practices in math intervention- this blog post is an effort to highlight those themes.

Begin, Monitor, and End Your Math Intervention Plan With Assessment

Assessment needs to be at the heart of your math intervention strategy. The assessment doesn’t need to be anything overly complicated but you should consider multiple data points to be sure you have:

  1. Selected the appropriate students to receive math intervention
  2. Understand where your students are currently performing and their current needs.
  3. A method to monitor growth over time to be sure interventions are effectively meeting your students needs.
  4. Monitor and adjust students included in intervention groups as needed over time.

This blog post lays out the dos and don’ts of your math intervention strategy. While this blog post gives you a peek into the organizational strategy I used to keep track of intervention data myself!

Choose the RIGHT Standards

The list of standards at each grade level is a mile long. For students who have gaps in their understanding from previous grade levels, the list grows even longs.

FOCUS ON THE RIGHT STANDARDS in your math intervention plan with these students. This means spending the bulk of your intervention time on standards concerning NUMBERS/PLACE VALUE and OPERATIONS. These are the foundational skills that are absolutely non-negotiable and lend themselves to future instruction.

Does this mean your instruction can’t even include topics such as sorting, measurement or geometry? Absolutely not! These topics can absolutely be folded in and used to support your instruction. They just shouldn’t be the sole focus of your instruction and you can’t get stuck in these topics at the expense of time that could be spent supporting students in understanding numbers and operations.

In this example, students are working on counting up to 5 objects with 1:1 correspondence while sorting counting bears.

It’s a “Kinder Concepts” review activity in my Kindergarten Math Intervention unit for learning numbers to 10.

While the focus is on numbers to 5 and 1:1 correspondence, students are also supporting their understanding of sorting and data!

Teach With A Pathway In Mind

Now that you have the right students working on the right standards, you need to be sure you are working with an explicit and systematic pathway in mind to get your students from where they are to where they need to be.

This means that when you choose a math topic, you want to build a deliberate and systematic pathway that builds understanding beginning with concrete and hands-on experiences and leading your students up through a more abstract level of understanding.

In this activity, you can see that students are connecting what they know about arrays to the topic of area.

There is a clear and systematic method of attaching concrete (the orange tiles) to a representative model (rectangles on graph paper) and also to the abstract concepts of arrays and area as seen in the equations recorded on the form.

Whenever you are designing your math intervention plan for instruction, keep in mind this CRA progression! All elements don’t necessarily need to be in every activity you teach but there should be an overarching pathway from concrete through to abstract across your lessons and units.

Be Explicit About Word Problems

You can’t expect to teach “naked numbers” and produce strong problem solvers. Throughout your instruction, you will need to incorporate context and word problems frequently. But also, it’s important to be explicit about problem-solving strategies!

Provide your students with opportunities to interact with all appropriate word problem types through your instructions and have conversations about your students’ strategies for solving these various problems.

Word problem types are important both in terms of your instruction and assessment. So often as teachers, we lament the fact that word problems seem to be more of a “reading and comprehension” issue than a “math” issue. Recognizing word problem types can help to bridge the gap.

As a teacher, recognizing word problem types can help to determine what your students do understand and comprehend in terms of a math story and what they still need support with.

Don’t Neglect Fact Fluency

Finally, build opportunities for your students to build their fact fluency throughout your instruction. If your student was to memorize every single addition, subtraction, multiplication and division fact we are talking about over 400 individual facts.

It’s not a realistic fact fluency “strategy” to practice facts hoping that memorization will emerge.

Instead, focus on fact relationships within your instruction! If your students understand what +0 truly means, they have now mastered 20 facts from 0 + 0 to 10 + 0! Looking for opportunities to build your students’ number sense and making explicit connections between number sense and equations will support your students!

Be explicit as you assess to see exactly which number relationships and facts your students need and then introduce activities and opportunities to improve understanding of these facts and relationships!

Keep these basic components in mind and you will watch your students flourish in the year ahead!

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