Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Intervention strategies

@TmathC tweeted about possible presenters and sessions at Twitter Math Camp 2014 next year.

Selfishly, I wanted to think of a session I could present on so I could justify to the boss (my wife) that attending #TMC14 was within our means. Instead, I looked through the list found here and saw something missing: a session dealing with intervention strategies or techniques for helping students who struggle in math class. Then it dawned on me, whenever I attend CMC South, I rarely see sessions dealing with intervention for students who struggle in math. Why?

Intervention, to me, is not reteaching, relearning, or repeating the same lesson to students by yelling it at them in a louder voice. By the way, don't tell Sadie you're reteaching. I'm right there with her on the Blame Game. Let's face it, every student comes to our class lacking some type of prerequisite skill, some more than others. It's not about blaming the previous teacher, previous curriculum, the "apathetic" student, the "unsupportive" home, or any other scapegoat. I know I've let students down in the past (and currently) and feel bad as they move to the next grade level. However, I want to be a better, more effective teacher, especially for students who typically struggle in math class.  

I doubt I'm the only one who could benefit from more intervention strategies and techniques. I believe every teacher who actually cares about their students would appreciate more intervention strategies no matter where they teach, what they teach, or who they teach. Being at a new school this year, I really could benefit from more intervention strategies.  Most of my students this year need intervention badly. They need help with numerous elementary concepts. I need more strategies to help students become better math students. I need more strategies to help students increase their number sense.

I'm not looking for a silver bullet. I'm not looking for someone to tell me to reteach it using similar worksheets, but change the values of the coefficients, or numerators, or integers, or percentages. I love the #MTBoS and all the great resources, but I feel it lacks this crucial element: intervention. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm absolutely ignorant of some rich resource somewhere. I'm asking for help. Do you know someone who writes about intervention? Are there reputable intervention programs/sites online? What intervention strategies do you use that are effective? Please share. Go to the comments and list blogs, sites, or people I need to follow who have intervention strategies I can use. Thanks in advance.



  1. I teach 6th graders who are many years behind in their number sense. I've been trying to teach them to visualize word problems. I use Singapore Math models for this and recently found Thinking Blocks, an online version of the models available on the internet and on ipads.

    I also love the book, Building Powerful Numeracy for Middle or High School Students, by Pamela Weber Harris. This book has helped me understand number sense and what people with strong number sense can do with numbers and flexibility.

  2. In Ontario, I worked on materials that were provided through the Ministry of Education for closing gaps of students in Junior/Intermediate/Senior levels. They are available online at I carried out a research study in both Grade 6 and Grade 9 - and saw significant gains in both student achievement and in confidence. The two-page summaries of the research are also found on the site. This includes work with students with learning disabilities and english language learners. The materials are meant to be examples of intervention strategies/materials - and gap closing packages highlight the following which we feel are necessary components of any intervention strategy: assessment and differentiation, explicit instruction, self-regulation, visual representation, and meaningful practice.

    1. Amy - what a treasure trove that website is! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Are you familiar with number strings? They are a great way to build number sense, and can be done in small groups, individually, or with a whole class. They are also self-differentiating; students with more highly developed number sense can still benefit from exploring the patterns in the strings. This website is a great resource:

    I draw on a wide range of resources for intervention (probably how I justify buying so many books!); each student's need for intervention is specific to the topic requiring support and their academic readiness. It always seems to come down to some one-on-one time to clear up misconceptions and clarify ideas, and then targeted and scaffolded practice. It would be wonderful to have a session on this at TMC14 - perhaps a panel of people sharing resources and strategies if not one person?

  4. Thank you for starting this conversation. Your presentation of the dilemma, as well as the comments above, reaffirm my conviction (which was wavering) that intervention is as creative an endeavor as any other aspect of teaching worthwhile mathematics.

  5. Here’s a Math Reasoning Inventory site I came across recently. I haven’t had a chance to use it, but I plan to do so with a few of my seventh graders since they are still struggling with fractions.
    Every teacher faces the dilemma of how to move students forward in the curriculum when their current skills are lacking. I think it’s in times like these where we need to throw out the grade level curriculum for those students and meet them where they’re at. Keep in mind your classroom may end up looking like a one room school house with varying degrees of differentiated instruction.
    Would you be able to get access to previous grade level materials, perhaps different practice worksheets? Have the students set goals for those concepts and teach them how to monitor their own progress so they’re invested. Build in spaced practice so there’s a better chance for the concept to go into long term memory.
    Sorry about the rambling, but one final share out: I really like Debby Wile’s comment on Seth’s blog.
    Good luck!

  6. This is an enormously important topic that does not get attention in the MTBoS, because it is not sexy.

  7. There are a lot of struggling learners who do just need a "reteach," whether because their fixed mindset or attention or whatever, they learned better in a small group setting. I have seen significant progress now that my school has a twice weekly intervention time where I can work with struggling students in small groups during the school day. Also, we have an after school "homework club" that's free for any student who I recommend. These two structures help me help a lot of students.

    However, there are always students who really need more. It seems they have an angry injured wolverine relationship to math. They land in middle school with a bunch of rules, tricks and procedures that make no sense and that they can't keep straight. It takes a long time to go back and unpack it all then refold it neatly in a way that makes sense. And it's not always easy to find materials that will actually help them make sense of what they are learning.

    It also doesn't help that they just get passed along. I have sixth graders who more than likely will not be ready for seventh grade by June, but off they'll go, with only the most tenuous grasp of sixth grade topics.

    I would love to see a panel on this at TMC14.

  8. A parent recently pointed me toward this website called Survivor Algebra which is apparently geared toward intervention. I'm glad I ran into this post of yours--it reminded me to check it out. Going to continue doing that now. Here's the site:

  9. Here's another addition to our supply of good ideas

  10. Let's say a student was absent the day of a 3 act lesson. I think the way to make an intervention, or for the student who didn't understand it, is to have a worksheet of some kind with cloze sentences so they get the meat of the lesson. Probably not as engaging but worthwhile.

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