Math Intervention should be MORE than just a computer program

Math Intervention should be MORE than just a computer program

Math Intervention should be MORE than just a computer program. Ok there, I said it. Many schools rely on computer based math intervention programs and I am NOT here for it.

First, let’s take a look at the reasons WHY these are popular programs: 

  • Little to no prep – Aside from entering in your student names, there isn’t much else for you to do. 
  • Automatic data – The data is collected for you. 
  • It teaches for you – These online intervention programs have been developed to include the instruction. 
  • They’re colorful and appealing – These companies have spent a TON of money to make their programs cute and colorful and animated. 

Now, let’s take a look at why those same reasons make those programs NOT ideal to use for true intervention. 

  • Little to no prep – You need to be involved with intervention. You need to have your hands on the content and create/assemble/prepare resources that are going to be engaging and reach your students. Taking a hands off approach to intervention is never the best choice. 
  • Automatic data – Yes, having automatic data is great but – do you ever really look at the questions? When you grade intervention materials yourself, you can actually SEE the mistakes your students make. You can get a true sense for who has it, who doesn’t and most importantly… why. Now I’m not saying you cannot use digital tools for assessment, but be sure you analyze the data. I include digital assessments with some of my current binders and my hope is that, while yes they are “self-grading” teachers take the time to look through the results, use the data charts, analyze everything and truly try to get a feel for who need intervention the most. 
  • It teaches for you – Oh this is my biggest NO-NO. Intervention should never be taught for you. YOU must be the teacher. YOU must have your ears and eyes open and YOU must be delivering the instruction. Students in intervention NEED you. Often desperately. Intervention should NEVER be something students are sent off to work on independently. If they are in intervention, it means they need help. You need to the be the one to help them (or the interventionist if you are lucky enough to have one). Please (I’m actually begging) don’t rely on a computer program to help your most at-risk students. 
  • They’re colorful and appealing – Yes, this is true but this often wears off quickly. I’ve watched my own kids use online math programs while they were receiving virtual instruction, and they were only cute for about a minute. After a few days (or sometimes even minutes), they were annoyed by the voices, thought the animations were dorky, etc. Your students, ESPECIALLY intervention students, should not see/do the same thing all year long. Using the same computer program with the same animations, voices, characters, etc. gets old and when it gets old, your students start to shut down. If you are the one actually delivering the instruction, you can keep things fresh and engaging by bringing in different types of resources, activities, sprinkling in some technology, etc. 

All of this is just to ask you – please do your best to be present for your students during their intervention time. I understand you have a lot on your plate. I understand you are being asked to do the impossible – reach everyone all the time. But I also understand the needs of students who receive math intervention. If you use an automated program, considering using one for enrichment instead of intervention. If you need to use something for independent work for more than 10 minutes, consider doing that during whole group or whole class independent time. Not during intervention.

It is easy to think that “this group of kids won’t understand anyway” and focus on those who will. But having this mindset is incredibly damaging to your struggling students. Students who receive intervention could be struggling in other classes and/or other areas of their life. Having specialized individual or small group instruction with you – someone who truly cares and truly is wanting to help – could change everything for them. 

It’s easy to think “something is better than nothing.” But that is not the case with intervention. By picking just “something” to use, you risk turning your students off even more from math. You risk making them feel less important than the other students who get your attention. You risk burning them out. Something is not better than nothing. 5 minutes of face to face intervention is better than nothing. Only meeting three days a week instead of 5 is better than nothing.  {{if you are teaching hybrid or just hanging on by a thread this year, see my “PS” at the bottom.}}

If you don’t feel like you can, reach out for help. Ask your team members, your administration, your social network of teachers. Someone is ALWYAS there for you. You are never alone!

PS – I completely understand that some of you are required to use these programs. And some of you are hanging on by a thread trying to teach either fully virtual or hybrid. This school year (and the end of last) has been one beyond what anyone could have anticipated. You’ve faced more than you ever thought you would. If you are using these programs, I am NOT at all disrespecting your teaching ability. I am not at all disrespecting the choices you are making to keep yourself afloat right now. This article is geared towards in-person learning when small groups are possible – OR fully virtual learning where teachers can also meet with small groups, albeit behind a computer screen. I see you. I respect you. I know you have been climbing mountains this year. In your case, something is better than nothing. 

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My name is Lindsay

My goal is to help math teachers bring their students out of the math textbook and into a hands on, interactive and fun learning environment.

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