Strengthening Mathematics Intervention: Identifying and Addressing Challenges to Improve Instruction for Struggling Learners

This project's first goal is to study the national landscape of mathematics intervention classes, which are additional classes provided to struggling students, including learners with and without identified disabilities. We administered a survey to a nationally representative sample of 2,024 urban and suburban public schools with grades 6-8 to find out how these classes are being implemented and the types of challenges faced. Approximately 43% of schools (876 schools) responded to the survey; the findings revealed widespread implementation of these classes (69% of schools) and highlighted a range of practices in terms of class size, scheduling, duration, staffing and content focus. Our project's second goal is to apply the survey findings to design professional development to support teachers of mathematics intervention classes, helping them to build knowledge and practices for addressing students' wide range of learning needs.

Full Description

Across the nation, schools face a pressing need to improve instruction for middle grades students who are not reaching proficiency on standardized assessments. One approach is to schedule additional mathematics classes to provide struggling learners with more time for instruction and support. For our study, we defined mathematics interventional classes as classes taken by struggling students during the regular school day in addition to their general education mathematics classes. These classes are for students who have difficulties learning mathematics, including learners who do not have identified disabilities and those with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). 

While recommendations for intervention practices are present in the research literature, little is known about how schools are actually implementing intervention classes, including how often the classes meet, the number of students enrolled, who teaches them and the content focus. To address this gap in the knowledge base, we conducted an observational study and a national survey of current practices and challenges in mathematics intervention classes. The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 2,024 urban or suburban public schools with grades 6-8.  Approximately, 43% of schools (876 schools) responded; the findings revealed widespread implementation of mathematics intervention classes and variations in class structures and practices. 

The final aspect of the project involves the design of professional development for mathematics intervention teachers based on the needs identified in the earlier phases of the project. We are developing and testing a blended professional development course to help teachers build the knowledge and practices needed to provide high-quality, targeted instruction to struggling learners in mathematics intervention classes.

Related Resource:


MacVicar, T., Brodesky, A., & Fagan, E. (in press). The power of interviewing students: using interviews to uncover student thinking and guide instruction. Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PreK-12.

Brodesky, A., Fagan, E., & MacVicar, T. (in press). Strengthen mathematics intervention to promote student success: suggestions for middle grades principals. Principal Leadership.


Project Materials