Structured intervention, when done right, accelerates learning, reduces students’ ‘maths anxiety’ and aids schools in effective resourcing. Often, however, maths intervention fails due to poor implementation.

You might be thinking; ‘We’ve tried intervention but… our school is under-resourced/we don’t have enough planning time/students don’t engage’… 

We hear you. However, with appropriate planning and a growth mindset (it’s not just our students who need this!), we believe that any school can provide effective intervention which might just work ‘learning miracles’. 

So, what do the experts say works, and how can your school make intervention a success? 

Last year, Evidence for Learning published their guide ‘Improving mathematics in upper primary and lower secondary, in which using structured intervention was a key recommendation. 

Here are eight common mistakes to avoid to ensure intervention is successful, according to the research. 

Mistake #1

‘Test cramming’ at the year or school end

When intervention is reactive, rather than used as a preventative measure of further regression, the support given can often just attempt to ‘patch the cracks’ rather than address the root of students’ struggles.

Interventions are often prioritised towards the end of primary school, or in preparation for state/national exams. Whilst this can prove effective for those in need of an ‘extra boost’, learners with more prominent learning gaps struggle to catch up in time. 

Solution: Facilitate early, well planned intervention

MathsClub tips:
  • Factor in personalised learning planning for students as early as possible
  • Plan intervention as part of your regular school timetabling; targeting students to enrol can follow later

Mistake #2

Targeting students is slow, and not data driven

Whilst formal exams can be insightful for targeting students in need of extra support, waiting until results day can delay much needed action. Similarly, not using any data to inform planning can mean that students most in need do not receive the support required to progress.

Solution: Guide selection via formative and summative student assessment

MathsClub tips: 
  • Conduct informal class tests regularly to assess students’ progression in maths
  • Use data to target students with domain learning gaps, or to identify disadvantaged students who may benefit from individualised attention

Mistake #3

Instruction is not aligned with evidence-based practice

The Institute of Educational Science’s Practice Guide cites strong evidence that intervention is most effective when instruction involves: 

  • Step-by-step modelling of problem-solving strategies
  • ‘Think alouds’ to develop students’ reasoning skills
  • Amble opportunity for guided and scaffolded practice, to help students master concepts
  • Cumulative review, to aid knowledge and skills retention

Solution: Systematic and explicit teaching

MathsClub tips:
  • Factor in personalised learning planning for students as early as possible
  • Plan intervention as part of your regular school timetabling; targeting students to enrol can follow later

Mistake #4

Implementation is poorly managed

No matter how well designed an intervention program is, if the implementation is poor, you will not see the results you hope for. We all know how often schools are under-resourced, which can mean that structured intervention doesn’t take priority. Assigning the planning or leading of intervention to already overburdened or untrained staff can be a recipe for failure.

Solution: Plan according to the resources available

MathsClub tips: 
  • If teachers or teaching assistants are delivering intervention, invest in their training and development
  • Consider a third party provider to minimise school-side planning. Ensure that such involves trained subject specialist instructors, and is easy to set up and run

Mistake #5

Interventions are misaligned to in-class teaching

Intervention is best when students are supported to see the value in it, and how it reflects what they learn in their regular classes. Schemes of learning should supplement content covered in the curriculum, and so effective communication between intervention and class instructors is imperative. 

Solution: Ensure programs are aligned with classroom instruction, and that students are aware of this

MathsClub tips:
  • For internal intervention, set up regular touch points & facilitate collaborative planning between instructors

  • Opt for third party interventions which provide regular progress evaluation reports, ideally demonstrating evaluation of mindset and metacognition development as well as academic progress

Mistake #6

Student engagement is not prioritised

Hands up if you’ve heard a student cry ‘But why do I have to do this?’…? 

This one is a no-brainer – if students are not motivated to learn, barriers to progress increase exponentially. The learning content, and pedagogical delivery of such, should consider students’ affective learning domain. This may manifest in the form of praise and reward systems, incorporating positive statements of affirmation and/or facilitating learning games.

Solution: Ensure students are properly motivated to take part, and succeed in, interventions

MathsClub tips: 
  • Factor in ‘maths mindset progress’ when evaluating providers of intervention

  • ‘Hype up’ students to take part, supporting them to become excited about intervention provision

Mistake #7

Students are removed from subjects they enjoy 

Removing students from their beloved art or gym class, or scheduling boosters during lunch or after school may further increase maths anxiety or resentment towards the program

Solution: Schedule intervention within allocated subject learning time

MathsClub tips:
  • Schedule intervention during some of students’ maths class time, allowing the class teacher to further personalise learning to a smaller class group

Mistake #8

Interventions are planned without a set timeframe 

In the planning stage, if evaluation check-points are not scheduled to analyse progress, students can remain in intervention for longer than needed, sometimes resulting in ‘intervention fatigue’. Evaluations should include communication with students and instructors or intervention managers in order to evaluate progress holistically. 

Solution: Plan interventions with an endpoint, but be prepared to adjust that based on student progress

MathsClub tips:
  • Book intervention reviews in your school calendar, and establish evaluation criteria from the start: What will student success look like? How will you know if targets have been met?

  • Once students gain confidence and fill learning gaps, consider rotating students in and out of the program in order to maximise impact

With the right support, at the right time, every student can become ‘switched on’ to maths. When planned strategically and resourcefully, in line with what the evidence says actually works, structured intervention is a sure fire way to best support your students most in need of targeted attention in maths.

MathsClub provides personalised, 1-to-1 online Maths intervention programs for primary schools. With individual tutors for each student, regular holistic progress reporting and dedicated support, MathsClub makes intervention simple. 

Book a demo to learn how we can support your school…

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