How to Make a Simple but Effective Math Intervention - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide

How to Make a Simple but Effective Math Intervention

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recently released some important insights into the instructional strategies for intervention that are most effective in helping students with difficulties in mathematics. As a classroom teacher and instructional specialist, I witnessed too many students struggling with math skills and processes. By the end of the school day, the students are burned out and ready to be watching cartoons and eating snacks with their shoes off. (Aren't we all though?!) These insights can help us better serve these students and maximize their intervention...AND we can approach this in a fun way. What if there was one simple, but effective intervention you could use with your struggling mathematicians?

Using 4 Powerful Math Strategies during Intervention

Students who are historically struggling and students with special needs, are not the only ones in the classroom that need additional support in learning mathematics concepts. We need to approach math instruction so all students, especially those who are struggling can be successful. The NCTM highlighted four research-based strategies that are most effective. These intervention include:
  • The use of structured peer-assisted learning activities.
  • Systematic and explicit instruction using visual representations.
  • Modifying instruction based on data from formative assessment of students.
  • Providing opportunities to think aloud while they work. 

4-Step Process for Simple, but Effective Math Intervention

1. Purchase some fun materials for the students to use in the intervention setting. 

Preferably, these are materials that the students do not use during the regular school day. I often look for items in the Target Dollar Spot, Walmart seasonal aisles, local dollar stores, and, my favorite, Saturday morning yard sales. I used a 98 cent package of four sticky darts in the seasonal Valentine aisle at our local Walmart. 

2. Pair your "fun purchase" from step 1 with classroom materials that you already own. 

I typically pair my fun purchase with dry erase boards, ten frames, or other math manipulative. For this activity, I used some poster board I already had in the closet and some extra copies of math printables.

3. Attach a skill that the students are struggling to master. I identify this skill during the school day while I am supporting all of the learners. I take special notice of the struggling learners through the various formative assessments. 

I often do an additional explanation in small group for the focus skill. I then model the skill using visual representations and manipulatives and have the students work together with a buddy while they talk out what they are doing. This combines the first strategy that the NCTM suggests of peer-assisted learning activities and the fourth strategy of thinking aloud while students' work.

This is a great time to practice all four of these strategies as you have more time to really focus in on what these students are doing and saying. Their communication helps you know how to better serve them in the classroom. I pretend I am invisible often times to allow for more natural conversations among the students.

4. Use the combined materials to practice the math skill for the duration of the intervention time or the next day, if needing to chunk the lesson into smaller parts for mastery. 

In the photographs, I show the a few examples to show how this can be used across the grade levels. I prepared the board BEFORE intervention time, to maximize our time together. The intervention game is the same premise in all of the examples. Students take turns using the darts to hit one "target number." This is the only part of the intervention done individually. After Student 1 hits a target number, ALL of the students participate in the following activities. (They complete them individually, but they all participate.)

Kindergarten- Students will read, write, and represent numbers to 20. I try to make this skill as specific as possible, so the lesson might focus on numbers 1-5. (TEKS K.2B)

I re-used pieces of my students' favorite math center, 1-20 Number Puzzles. Students simply take turns hitting the "target" which is any number representation and then practice reading the number aloud and writing the number on a whiteboard. (I also included some thinking aloud during this time. I inquiry, "How did you know that is the number 4?"

First Grade- Students will generate a number that is greater than or less than a given whole number up to 120. Focusing on the specificity of the lesson, I might focus on generating numbers that are greater than a given number between 20-50. (TEKS 1.2D)

I wrote two digit numbers ranging from 10-50 on the "target." When the student hit the target, all of the students read the number aloud and wrote a number that was greater than on their white board.

Second Grade- Students will use standard, word, and expanded forms to represent numbers up to 1,200. Again, I try to make this as specific as possible, so the lesson might be focused on expanded form using numbers 500-1,000. (TEKS 2.2B)

I wrote the standard form of numbers I selected between 500-1,000 on the target. When the student hits a target number, all of the students read it aloud before writing the number using expanded form on their white boards.

I hope this inspires you to find some basic materials and make a fun math intervention using the four suggest math strategies from the NCTM and if you want to use my 1-20 number puzzles they're in my TpT shop. 

What are some great, fun finds you have used in your classroom for math interventions?

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