Mathematics Intervention: Strategies to Help Students Catch Up
More students struggle with math than any other subject. Parents may provide a struggling student with out-of-class tutoring, but this often proves unsuccessful. When a student struggles in math, it can be disheartening for her parents, her teachers, and especially herself. The student may begin to worry that it’s too late to catch up.
Here, we provide some intervention strategies, as well as a bit of hope, for students who struggle with math.
Strategies to help students catch up in math:
- Build in a routine of support
Don’t wait for a student to raise their hand and ask for help before you reach out. Often, students feel embarrassed when they don’t understand something and will pretend they understand rather than ask for help. If you notice a student falling behind, help them as soon as possible. Build in a routine of support in your classroom so that helping struggling students is second nature. This classroom culture of assistance will also prevent students from becoming embarrassed when you approach them and offer to help.
- Encourage thinking-out-loud
Encourage students to think out-loud either by explaining their thought process or by writing it out on a piece of paper. This type of thinking is especially important in math because math is a subject with logical sequences and steps. It can also help you catch problem areas with particular students. If a student only provided you with an incorrect answer, you would not be able to see where they got off track when solving their problem. But if the student writes out each step of the same problem, you can see which step he is chronically missing and therefore target instruction.
- Build in vocabulary instruction
The study of mathematics contains a surprising amount of vocabulary- even, odd, average, sum, denominator, etc. In fact, this vocabulary could be what is holding some students back. Be sure to review mathematics vocabulary with students on a consistent basis.
- Foster student-to-student interaction
When students interact with other students, they are more likely to remember content than if they were studying a piece of paper by themselves. Encourage student-to-student interaction in your classroom with activities such as Think-Pair-Share in which students collaborate with each other and share their findings and solutions out loud. This is also a good way for peer-tutoring to occur naturally.
Models and manipulatives are especially useful for visual and kinesthetic/hands-on learners. For instance, showing a child that two times six is twelve becomes much easier when you are using blocks to physically increase the two objects into twelve objects. This experience can help students conceptualize these calculations in their minds.
- Provide explicit instruction for struggling students
Inquiry-based, student-driven learning is a great option for the classroom most of the time. However, if a student is particularly struggling, it is best to teach the content to that student explicitly rather than relying on the student’s own curiosity to propel them forward.
Overall, the most important thing when helping struggling students is to make learning a positive, encouraging experience. Struggling students can be easily discouraged when they don’t understand something right away, but it’s crucial that these students learn to persevere and never give up. Provide frequent encouragement and praise to these students to help them develop a lifelong love of learning.