Structuring Your Math Intervention Period



Let’s talk about how to structure your math intervention period. Most schools give teachers free rein over structuring this class, which sounds amazing, but is actually more challenging in practice than it sounds. In this post I’ll be tackling two challenges with structuring math intervention:

  1. What do I teach in math intervention?

  2. How do I fill the time period for the intervention class?

You might also find this previous blog post helpful about different types of intervention formats.

What do I teach in math intervention?


This will somewhat depend on your administration. I’ve taught math intervention at 3 different high schools and been asked to do all different things at each site. At one school 9th graders were double blocked in math and got Algebra 1 with one teacher and math support with another. In that math support class we were given a totally separate - and below grade level - curriculum to use during intervention. At my second school my 10th grade Algebra 1 repeaters were double blocked with me and I had two periods with them to get through the Algebra 1 curriculum. And at my third school they told me I had three periods of intervention, but to just teach them the regular Integrated Math 1 content I was teaching in my other “on grade level” classes.

Bottom line: There are a lot of different options.

My opinion: Having had all three experiences, I think the most impressive results came at my third high school when I was told to just teach them the grade level math and I think the key was… HIGH EXPECTATIONS.

Expectations are everything.

When students are assigned to a math intervention class, they know they’re behind. When we then print out addition and division worksheets - with good intentions… that is where they’re at - we are communicating to them, “this teacher thinks I’m dumb. She doesn’t believe I can do math. I saw this same worksheet in 3rd grade. I’m done. I’m not even gonna try. What’s gonna be different this year?”

Instead, when students are assigned a math intervention class and are met with a teacher saying, “I know this is ‘intervention’ but I believe you can do grade level math and I’m going to help you fill in any gaps you might have from previous years as we go” those kids are going to rise to the occasion.

Now, I’m not saying this is easy. Students assigned to intervention have REAL gaps. But I believe we should always start with grade level content as the goal and scaffold and fill in relevant gaps along the way. This is in contrast to teachers taking weeks at a time to teach past grade level content before getting to the grade level content at all.

Yes, it will take you longer.

Yes, you may not go as in depth as you would with a “grade level” class.

But these kids will finally begin to feel like a “math person,” and that is 90% of the battle with intervention students.

So, what content should you teach in intervention? Scaffolded grade level content.

Here’s an example…

I’m teaching 9th grade intervention so I’d follow Algebra 1 standards. I’m teaching two step equations and my students can’t even add and subtract negative numbers. Instead of pausing for four weeks just to practice basic operations - I may pause for a day or two to review the basic operations - I weave that operation practice into my warm ups each day. Maybe do a fun counter or number line activity one day to break up the period. Then I start with one step equations. First a few with just addition and subtraction, then a few with multiplication and division. Then I’d move on to two step equations. Equations that come out to whole answer numbers first, then a few with fractions in the original equations, etc. Now this might take 2-3 days in intervention and that’s okay! I may not give them examples with decimals or literal equations, just to keep things simple, but they are still accessing grade level content. And if they need a calculator… I’M GOOD WITH IT! I’m all for students using calculators to access grade level content. Sorry if that offends you.

Great, now that that’s over, let’s move on to what you actually do during your intervention period…

How do I structure the time period for the intervention class?


Below you’ll find sample 60 minute and 90 minute periods. If yours are 55 and 100 or anything else… adjust as needed and add your own ideas too!


60 minute period example

Time

Description

Notes

0:00 - 0:10

Entry routine & warm up

Intervention classes NEED structure. I suggest starting the class with a “quick math win” with something like Which One Doesn’t Belong or Same & Different.


*Set a timer! I see teachers accidentally taking 25 minutes on a warm up all the time!


0:10 - 0:35

Instruction & real time feedback

Take no more than 20 minutes to teach your lesson. I like to combine gradual release of responsibility (I do, we do, you do) with a little competition in a strategy I call, The Math Wars Method to teach my content daily.


*Make sure you’re calling on tons of students in this section. We need to be gathering real time feedback about if our students are understanding the concept or not AS WE’RE TEACHING IT. This is already intervention, we don’t want to leave students even more behind. I highly encourage teachers to use Cold Call to gather this rich real time feedback!

0:35 - 0:50

Engaging practice activity

Students who struggle can get overwhelmed easily. I highly suggest using activities that allow students to focus on one problem at a time, like scavenger hunts, or something kinesthetic, like card sorts or matching activities

0:50 - 1:00

Closing

Clean up if needed, offer a reflection prompt for students to write and answer, or give an exit ticket to formatively assess students' learning.

90 minute period example

Time

Description

Notes

0:00 - 0:10

Entry routine & warm up

Intervention classes NEED structure. I suggest starting the class with a “quick math win” with something like Which One Doesn’t Belong or Same & Different.


*Set a timer! I see teachers accidentally taking 25 minutes on a warm up all the time!


0:10 - 0:35

Instruction & real time feedback

Take no more than 20 minutes to teach your lesson. I like to combine gradual release of responsibility (I do, we do, you do) with a little competition in a strategy I call, The Math Wars Method to teach my content daily.


*Make sure you’re calling on tons of students in this section. We need to be gathering real time feedback about if our students are understanding the concept or not AS WE’RE TEACHING IT. This is already intervention, we don’t want to leave students even more behind. I highly encourage teachers to use Cold Call to gather this rich real time feedback!

0:35 - 0:50

Engaging practice activity

Students who struggle can get overwhelmed easily. I highly suggest using activities that allow students to focus on one problem at a time, like scavenger hunts, or something kinesthetic, like card sorts or matching activities

0:50 - 1:10

Instruction & real time feedback

Do another round of The Math Wars Method to deliver new content.

1:10 - 1:25

Engaging practice activity

Use above ideas or try a digital activity like Desmos, fit in some time for IXL, or do a fun Quizizz!

1:25 - 1:30

Closing

Clean up if needed, offer a reflection prompt for students to write and answer, or give an exit ticket to formatively assess students' learning.

I hope you’ve found these helpful! Reach out with questions on Instagram!



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