5 Must Haves for Effective Math Intervention

Educating children can spur many different debates. One thing that’s NEVER debatable is the value of a well-trained teacher who builds relationships with students, knows math content, and has researched-based pedagogical skills.

A study conducted by economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years from a large urban school district from fourth grade to adulthood, making it one of the largest, and most consequential educational studies in recent years.

The study discovered that “students assigned to higher VA (value-added) teachers are more successful in many dimensions. They are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to have children as teenagers.”

With all of the research about a teacher being the most important factor in student success, we can conclude that effective math intervention begins with you. Although you’re the most important factor for your students’success there are five must haves for laying the foundation for effective math intervention.

Math Content Knowledge

There are so many teachers that I’ve come in contact with who say, “I want to get out of the classroom.” In the back of my mind I always think to myself, “What skills do you have to actually warrant being promoted to a position outside of the classroom?” Over the years I’ve seen younger teachers give the impression that they are entitled to become something other than a classroom teacher because they’ve taught the bare minimum of three years.

To be perfectly honest, how can a teacher build content knowledge in three years enough to service students who have the most needs? The answer to this question is it can’t be done. Unfortunately, many inexperienced teachers often find themselves in this exact situation.

If you’re one of these teachers you’re probably asking what can you do to build your math content knowledge? The answer is quite simple. You have to build your professional learning network. A PLN is a group of connections  that reflects your values, passion, and area of expertise. This is where you go to both share and learn. (Learn more about the Math Intervention Academy)

Connecting with teachers who have expertise in various math content areas and strong pedagogical skills will you build your content knowledge more quickly than taking any course. The support that you’ll receive from your PLN will be relevant to you as a teacher and your students.

Effective Use of Data

The use of data can be controversial for math intervention. It is the starting point for beginning your intervention, however it’s only the driver of your instruction for your students. 

To use data effectively you can’t just rely on the numbers because it only tells one part of the students’ story. The qualitative data tells the “why” behind the numbers. Qualitative data includes:

  1. Grades
  2. Teacher Observations/Notes
  3. IEP or Referrals to the Intervention Assistance Team (IAT)
  4. Homelife/mobility

To use data effectively you must use quantitative and qualitative data simultaneously to make decisions about instructional strategies.

Ability to Build Relationships

Relationships are the core of all systems in education. If you’re a Math Interventionist your goal should be to build relationships with the teachers you support as well as the students. If you have a good relationship with the teachers, it will show because it important to your students’ success when it comes to your intervention strategies.

For example, if you and the teachers that you support have a good working relationship the teacher will be more open to allowing the students that you service to use the math strategies that you’re teaching your students. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you and the teacher of record to have a harmonious relationship.

I’m not saying that you all have to be friends, but you all need to have a good professional working relationship.

Strong Pedagogy

Pedagogy is the art, science, or profession of teaching. To sum it up it’s the instructional strategies that you use to get students to learn a particular skill on concept. Textbooks or programs like Guided Math and Math Workshop rely on a teacher’s understanding of the math contents as well as what instructional strategy is best for teaching the concept.

Unfortunately, many administrators overlook a teacher’s pedagogy. A lot of elementary principals get caught up on the decorations in the classroom or the bells and whistles of activities that are being done with the students. Instead of focusing on the student outcomes, how well the teacher delivers the math instruction, or the instructional strategy being used they are looking for a Twitter worthy picture.

You can know how to do the math but if you can’t get the students to learn the content the way that you’re teaching it then knowing the content becomes pointless. 

Math Intervention System

Response to Intervention or math intervention is strategic. There must be a system in place that you use to document student progress, determine the length of each intervention cycle, and how students will be progress monitored.

Far too often I see teachers asking for guidance on purchasing intervention programs. There’s not a program that a school can purchase that will supplant human capital. The resources that you’ll need can be found in the vertical alignment of skills at each grade level. As far as how you support your students there’s not a right or wrong way as long as Tier 2 students get at least an hour of extra support per week.

Knowing the math content and improving your pedagogy will be something that you’ll have to constantly maintain over the course of your career. I guarantee if you have these five must haves embedded in your math intervention then you’ll put yourself on the path to success.

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I help math teachers who teach high need students to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver high quality math instruction. Learn more about me

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