A Word About Intervention Specialists

The most powerful tool in helping struggling math students is the classroom teacher, and robust, rigorous, responsive classroom instruction.  Under no circumstances should a “pull out” model of math intervention be seen as a panacea or an alternative to all the work that needs to be done in the classroom. There may be students that require interventions in addition to the work that is done at the classroom level.  Find Out What the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) Has to Offer

 A Case for Interventionist Specialists:   

The research shows that to truly make an impact, schools need a math interventionist that is dedicated to that role. This, in conjunction with high quality instruction, may make the difference for students who continue to move ahead in content but have significant gaps.

Too often this role falls to a person who may not be a math specialist. In this time of research-based practice, schools should not be using paraprofessionals to practise math skills with students of highest need. The math teacher may do their very best within the classroom, and offer support during non-instructional time, possibly scheduled RTI periods, or pulling students from other content areas. For students with identified needs (intensive or otherwise) the teacher may not have the necessary additional time nor the expertise needed. A math specialist is a necessary component of a strong intervention program.


Interventionists can have a significant impact on teacher practice. Selecting strategies and identifying needs should also be a collaborative process. The more collaboration between the teacher and the interventionist, the more likely the strategies offered by the interventionist will be assumed and adapted by the classroom teacher.

School math teams can study curriculum together, create vertical teams, and understand concept development up through the grades.  This involves a long term vision of deliberate timetabling, staffing, and resource allocation to support intervention programs.


Student Support Services Teachers and Their Collaborative Roles:

Student support services teachers perform an array of collaborative roles, such as those identified below, in order to assist classroom teachers and provide instructional support to students.

High Quality Intervention 

High quality intervention includes strong leadership support, capacity and readiness of professionals, ongoing professional learning (training and coaching), efficient procedures and intervention plans, ongoing evaluation to inform continuous improvement as well as engagement of parents and families.

Instruction during the intervention should be explicit and systematic. This includes providing models of proficient problem solving, verbalization of thought processes, guided practice, corrective feedback, and frequent cumulative review.

Gersten (2009)
Suggestions with respect to effective instructional approaches in RTI include:
  • direct teaching;
  • modeling (lots);
  • use of manipulatives;
  • communicating and constructing understanding; 
  • student doing the teaching/explaining; 
  • spaced practice;
  • models;
  • explicitly teaching visualizing;
  • fostering a growth mindset;
  • continual monitoring;
  • think alouds; and
  • repetition and more repetition.

The Institute for Educational Sciences in their document Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Response to Intervention (RTI) for Elementary and Middle Schools 1 identify eight research-based  recommendations for math interventions that should be part of any intervention planning.

Questions for reflection

  • How do we support struggling learners at all levels, including high school?
  • What is your learning support teacher’s  role in the team?
  • How can administrators utilize staff, timetabling and resources to support this process?
  • How can parents/caregivers and families be included in the process?
  • What professional development needs to be provided to ensure interventionists and teachers have the expertise needed?

1Gersten, R., Beckmann, S., Clarke, B., Foegen, A., Marsh, L., Star, J., & Witzel, B. (2009). Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Response to Intervention (RtI) for Elementary and Middle Schools. Retrieved 3 December 2020, from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/PracticeGuide/rti_math_pg_042109.pdf  Can be downloaded directly from: https://saskmath.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/rti_math_pg_042109.pdf

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