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Mathematics Intervention

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Mathematics Intervention

Some students need extra help to become proficient in mathematics. This help—which often gets called "intervention"—can include things like tutoring, different teaching techniques, mindset adjustments, and family/caregiver support. Some interventions are specific, like when one student needs help with one topic. Other interventions are more general, like when groups of students struggle on multiple topics. Either way, we recommend viewing intervention as a process, not just a product to be purchased. Intervention is more than software, manipulatives, or training that you can buy. Instead, intervention should focus on the specific needs of a student or group of students and working with that student or students and others in their support system to overcome their mathematical difficulties using the right tools for the job.

Data-Driven Interventions

Educators should use a variety of data to determine who needs intervention and what an intervention needs to focus on. In addition to student grades and test scores, your data should tell you things like:

  • How the student(s) are engaged in the classroom,
  • If the problem extends beyond a small number of students or topics, and
  • If curriculum materials and instructional methods are aligned and effective.

CDE has a rubric and other tools to help you use data more effectively and improve your math outcomes. You are welcome to contact CDE mathematics specialists at for help in making sense of your data and implementing interventions.

Tip: Use "Street Data"

"Street data" (and the book by the same name) refer to the data that tells us a lot about our students' backgrounds, abilities, and dreams. Instead of "top-down" measures like standardized test scores, street data are the "ground-level" stories, observations, and interactions that help us see what's right and good in our students and communities. Just because something isn't measurable doesn't mean it isn't valuable. This is especially true when using data to understand sources of inequity and to transform learning for students from marginalized communities.

Your data should now be pointing you in one or more directions. Below, we suggest creating a mathematics intervention plan that may include interventions at the system level, the classroom level, and/or the student level. A more complete flowchart for making intervention decisions is near the bottom of this page.

Developing a Comprehensive Mathematics Intervention Plan

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Consider "system-level" interventions if your data suggests:

  • A lack of data or poor data quality at the school level,
  • Ineffective school-wide support structures for students and/or
  • Weak connections with parents and communities.

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Consider "classroom-level" interventions if your data suggests:

  • Learning difficulties are widespread (over 10-20% of a class),
  • Lessons and materials are misaligned with learning goals and/or
  • Teaching practices are ineffective.

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Consider "student-level" interventions if your data suggests:

  • Learning difficulties are isolated (less than 10-20% of a class),
  • A student or students struggle with a specific topic and/or
  • Activities are needed for extra instructional time.

Building Strong Systems for Helping All Students

The offices and resources below can help make schools better for all students. When schools are better, students have a better chance of being successful in math.

Unified Improvement Planning

Colorado Framework for Rapid School Improvement in four domains; 1: Leadership for Rapid Improvement- Prioritize improvement, monitor goals, customize supports. 2: Talent Management- Recruit, retain & sustain talent, Target PL opportunities, Set performance expectations; 3: Instructional Transformation- Diagnose student needs, Provide rigorous instruction, Remove barriers & provide access; 4: Culture & Climate Shift- Build a culture of achievement, Solicit stakeholder input, Engage families

CDE's Office of School Improvement and Planning helps districts and schools with a process called Unified Improvement Planning (UIP). The UIP major improvement strategy guides address topics such as school attendance, coaching, and professional learning communities (PLCs).

Multi-Tiered System of Supports


CDE's Office of Learning Supports helps struggling students by making sure schools are set up to help in a coordinated way. Their Online Academy provides educators with opportunities to learn more about multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS).

Family, School, and Community Partnerships

The Family, School, and Community Partnership logo

CDE's Office of Family, School, and Community Partnerships has many resources for strategic partnerships, high-impact practices, leadership activities, policy work, and goal setting.

Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning at the Classroom Level

As a general rule, if more than 10 or 20 percent of a class is in need of intervention, educators should suspect a problem with whole-class instruction. Here are some ways educators can attempt to improve mathematics learning across multiple topics for large groups of students.

Quality Curriculum

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Curriculum should align with the standards and be logically sequenced to help students build new knowledge using what they already know. CDE maintains a list of high-quality materials and tools for reviewing materials yourself.

Effective Teaching Practices

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Teachers need a variety of skills to help students with their needs. CDE has summaries of NCTM's effective mathematics teaching practices and equity-based teaching practices.

Professional Development

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Teachers are learners, too, and need opportunities to develop in their profession. For teachers of mathematics, there are multiple state and national organizations that provide professional learning opportunities for teachers.

Mathematics Interventions for Individual or Small Groups of Students

Ideally, students are consistently engaged with high-quality materials and methods for learning mathematics. When students struggle despite these experiences, here are resources for intervening with individual students or small groups.

Giving Students More Time and Attention

Some students are best served with additional learning time outside of the regular classroom.

Math-Focused Interventions

If you know what concept or skill a student is struggling with, there may be an intervention designed specifically to address it. Some curricular programs include these interventions, but some have been developed independently. Here are three resources for finding specific, math-focused interventions:

CDE will be providing additional resources as we collect and/or develop them.

Resources for Families and Caregivers

Families can provide important support to a struggling math student. Here are some resources:

Math Intervention Guidance Flowchart 

When students face math challenges and require intervention, diagnosing the root problem is crucial. Similar to how a doctor would not prescribe right arm casts for everyone in an emergency room, in education, educators must address the varying underlying issues of student performance. The following flowchart serves as a tool to examine programs, helping to pinpoint the most impactful course of action. 

This is a flowchart to help institutions analyze their math intervention pathways


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