A realistic solution for closing the math achievement gap? Classwide intervention
By Kelly Pinkerton, Director of Assessment & Innovative Learning at Vail School District, Arizona
Students in the U.S. experience persistently low math achievement across all grades – as shown in the most recent iteration of The Nation’s Report Card.
Roughly 17 years ago, our district realized the need for additional rigor in our mathematics curriculum, and decided to focus on math fluency, rather than rote memorization. With this in mind, we implemented classwide interventions across the district to help every student achieve mastery in math.
“The findings from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Mathematics and Reading Assessments demonstrate that students must have more support. While the national high school graduation rate is at its all-time highest, we must provide students with a robust curriculum, high-quality teachers, and comprehensive services that include safety and mental health supports to ensure their future success.”
— National School Boards Association
What is classwide math intervention?
Classwide interventions are built upon peer-to-peer tutoring model, which has been proven to help students build confidence in math. Similar to individual student interventions, classwide interventions are used to help a group of learners attain mastery. Progress is monitored from week to week to assess growth and provide individual interventions as needed.
Why is classwide math intervention beneficial?
Recent research conducted by Dr. Amanda VanDerHeyden found that classwide intervention provided via SpringMath was not only more effective than making a curriculum change, but also more cost-effective.
Classwide interventions allow for valuable collaboration time between students, their peers, and the teacher.
Rather than relying on assessments that take place only a few times during the school year, classwide intervention encourages regular progress monitoring and consistent support to make sure no students are being left behind. Teachers can rely on regular assessments to pinpoint any specific areas of need for individual students, rather than hoping a universal screening will catch them later.
According to Barak V. Rosenshine’s notable study, the average second grader spends less than two hours per day engaged in academic time. When you consider the finite minutes in a typical school week, losses of instructional time are going to add up. Since classwide interventions take place during instruction, teachers don’t have to worry about finding additional hours in the day to provide support.
How does classwide math intervention work?
Before implementing classwide interventions, universal screening must take place. The results of these assessments will help you identify which skills and areas students need to work on.
Most often, the results of universal assessments will show that it’s not just one or two students who need extra help. Providing math interventions to an entire class ensures students are able to practice necessary skills – which reinforces our focus on math fluency.
Math interventions will be built into class time throughout the year, and students who require additional support will receive it in the form of individual interventions.
An example of classwide math intervention in action
First, the teacher will pair up a class of students – one higher-performing student, and one lower-performing student – and have them work through a short practice sheet. The “worker” will go first while the “helper” student observes. I recommend having the higher-performing student go first. The helper’s job is to observe the worker and speak up if they notice an error or the worker student needs help.
How can educators get started?
After the disruption in learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, learners are requiring additional support to make up for lost time – especially in math. The pandemic added pressure to already strained school budgets, so district leaders need cost-efficient strategies for providing support.
If you’re interested in a dedicated math intervention tool, I recommend SpringMath – an interactive math intervention platform that combines tools for assessment, intervention, and progress monitoring. We use SpringMath at the district level to monitor students’ growth, and at the school level to provide classwide and individual math interventions.