Remediation and intervention have become a big educational push in both mathematics and reading. This strategy for improving student learning was met wtih almost immediate plans to implement interventions to improve reading. Unfortunately, the community of mathematics educators and researchers was slower in developing plans and research-based best practices for implementing intervention strategies in mathematics. The good news is that the tools and strategies for intervening for struggling mathematics students is growing daily.
Diagnosing the Problem
Before interventions can begin, teachers or parents must determine the specific weaknesses or missing skills that cause the student to struggle. This requires some type of assessment or test. The most commonly used type of assessment is a curriculum-based measure. Many CBM assessments can be accessed, printed and administered online at no cost to the parent or teacher. An important consideration when administering CBM or other assessments of mathematics skills is that the assessment should begin at a level that is comfortable for the child. If a child is predicted to be working at one level below grade level, the assessment should begin at or slightly below that level and move up from there. Once the assessment is complete, it is scored and analyzed to determine which mathematics skills are missing or weak. If a parent is administering the assessment and is not familiar with appropriate levels of mathematics skills, the parent should seek help from local educators in examining the assessment to determine skills that need to be addressed with intervention.
Once the student's weaknesses are identified, one on one or small group instruction that focuses on that student's needs can begin. This begins the intervention or remediation stage of the process. One of the most common weaknesses found in students is in solving word problems or thinking and speaking critically about mathematics concepts. Intervention materials designed to address this type of weakness can be purchased, but this is not recommended. Many websites provide free, high-quality intervention materials. Intervention Central is the most popular resource for high-quality intervention materials and strategies. Another free and popular resource for math intervention strategies is Kahn Academy. Kahn Academy offers free videos that model mathematics skills at all levels with discussion and practice opportunities for students.
Along with mathematics literacy, mathematics computation fluency has been shown to be an important skill that many students are lacking. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics recommends developing fact fluency as one of the most important strategies for improving mathematics achievement for all students. Developing fact fluency requires one of the simplest and oldest instructional strategies used in education and in the home today -- practice. Students who are provided the opportunity to practice math computation facts develop the skills necessary to solve complex math problems.
As students progress or fail to progess, parents and educators must change the intervention to meet student needs. This requires ongoing monitoring of student progress and making changes based on the identification of student weaknesses.
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