Let’s get this out of the way right now. Math intervention does NOT mean pulling a group of kids aside and helping them to complete their work after a whole group lesson.
Another end of the spectrum? Math intervention does NOT mean stopping your instruction to “work on number sense” or “help them learn their facts”.
If you’ve fallen into either of these traps, believe me, you are NOT alone!
We’ve established that you absolutely must have dedicated time in your class for math intervention– but what are you supposed to do with that time to help your students be most successful?
What Is Math Intervention?
At it’s core, math intervention is instruction aimed at filling a gap. Most commonly, tier 2 math intervention is a re-teaching of grade level work that a student has not yet mastered. Tier 3 intervention is a re-teaching of content from a previous grade level that a student has not yet mastered.
There is absolutely room for flexibility within those definitions but, in any case, you are supporting your students to fill in gaps in their knowledge and understanding.
What Should I Teach During Math Intervention?
Your time in math intervention should be spent developing an understanding of numbers and operations. Look back at your grade-level standards and the previous grade-level standards. As far back as your students are lacking in their understanding is exactly where you need to start.
Do you have a 2nd grader who doesn’t understand that 15 is one ten and five ones? That’s where you need to start. They will not be successful with your second grade content until they have this most basic understanding.
Do you have a 5th grader who doesn’t understand that the 2 in 200 is worth ten times the value of the 2 in the number 20? You’re going to have an awfully difficult time with decimals if your students don’t have a strong whole number foundation!
Do Math Centers Count as Math Intervention?
Well, let me back up for a second.
Math centers can absolutely be a part of a robust intervention plan but the centers themselves can not be the entire intervention. You need to provide targeted instruction to your students. They can (and should!) then have independent practice around those skills. Math centers would be the perfect time for that independent practice.
What About an Intervention Binder- Is that Math Intervention?
A set of worksheets around a specific skill that you work through with a student is NOT math intervention! Your lessons need to include hands-on materials, representative visual models and your students need to be solving and working through real contexts in their work. A set of worksheets (even if they are titled “Math Intervention Binder”) isn’t going to cut it.
Targeted Lessons, Independent Practice… What Else Do I Need?
Assessment! Be sure that you are progress monitoring your students. This really just means that you are assessing your students towards the goals they are working on in math intervention. Say you identified a second-grade student as having a need for work on addition and you are providing targeted instruction around the counting on strategy. You will want to continually assess your student on their addition skills and observe to see if they are successfully employing the strategy.