Math Differentiation or Math Intervention… Which Do Your Students Need Right Now?

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So you have a student (or a handful of students) who need a bit of extra support to be successful in math. Math differentiation strategies might just do the trick but how can you know whether differentiation is enough or whether you need a more targeted intervention strategy?

When Is Math Differentiation The Answer?

Differentiation is your first line of defense in the classroom. As a teacher, you are a natural at making small tweaks here and there in order to support your students.

Math differentiation may be as simple as:

  • Providing students a manipulative to use during independent work.
  • Providing students a different manipulative that might be more supportive.
  • Assigning a different number of problems for independent practice.
  • Assigning different focus problems for different groups of students from the independent practice in your curriculum.
  • Changing the product you are asking for during independent practice (Instead of a pencil paper task, could your students demonstrate their understanding using manipulatives and drawing a diagram to match on a white board?)
  • Changing the space your student is sitting in so that they are nearby and you can notice misconceptions as soon as they arise.

No matter the small tweaks you are making, if you are supporting your students in accessing the regular tier 1 instruction and they are finding success through the use of those modifications, simple math differentiation is absolutely the answer for your students.

When Might a Student Need Math Intervention?

If you are consistently differentiating your instruction to make it accessible to your students and yet, you still have students who are not finding success with the tier 1 curriculum, you need to consider that small group math intervention is likely the answer!

Your students are likely missing foundational skills and understandings that are necessary to understand tier 1 instruction. You will need to implement a math intervention strategy that allows your students to fill in those gaps in understanding.

For example, imagine a 1st grade class working to explore the counting on strategy for addition. If you have a student in your classroom who doesn’t understand what addition means they will likely struggle with this strategy– it’s far ahead of their current level of understanding. A targeted intervention group that is focused on helping students to understand the meaning of addition is exactly what that student needs to be successful now and moving forward!

Let’s Talk More About Math Differentiation

Obviously, differentiation takes less time and planning than math intervention, so let’s make sure we are absolutely maximizing your math differentiation strategy in the classroom so that math intervention can be reserved only for those who need it most!

I’m hosting a FREE 1-hour workshop titled Math Differentiation Simplified where I will walk you step-by-step through a 3 part math differentiation framework. We will talk all about how to differentiate with the end in mind (because no one walks through the grocery store with a handful of base ten blocks!) and we’ll touch on exactly what you can do when you have a student (or students) for whom differentiation isn’t enough.

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