4 Response to Intervention (RTI) Strategies for the Math Classroom

Response to Intervention (RTI): If you’ve been in the classroom within the last ten years, there is a large chance that you’ve heard of (and utilized) this reinforcement and recovery measure.

rti_math_activitiesAfter first learning about RTI models, many educators (and myself) asked, “Is this just another complicated, drawn-out mandate by bureaucrats that never set foot in a classroom?”

However, after taking a closer look at the basis behind Response to Intervention models, you can quickly see the merit of a three tiered classroom system. RTI is based on valid research completed on teacher-proven methods for instructing and assessing all students (across the entire learning spectrum).

Read below to the break to learn about four quick strategies and activities you can use in your math classroom to optimize the “teacher-proven methods” of your RTI model to meet the unique learning needs of each and every student.

RTI Activities for your Math Classroom

1) Math Journaling

Implementing a math journal allows your students to “think about their thinking” (metacognition) and record it in a way that makes sense to them. This journaling process gives you a window into each student’s mind to determine where he or she needs help or enrichment.

Encourage students to draw, write and calculate in a math journal to solve problems, work through processes, and explain their actions. Assign math journals once a day, once a week or even once a month to create an invaluable, ongoing formative assessment.

In respect to RTI, you can differentiate journal assignments for Tier 1 students by providing open-ended questions, like “How would you quickly count all of the toes in this classroom?” Differentiate further for Tier 2 and Tier 3 students by asking more concrete questions, based on the concepts they are currently working on.

Additionally, with the advent of free student blogs and discussion boards, you can facilitate an open online classroom forum that encourages your students to post their journals and findings online. Each student can curate and comment on one another’s journal entries, creating an element of collaboration and peer reasoning.

2) Manipulatives

Consider a kindergarten classroom. It’s likely stocked with colorful bins full of plastic toys, connecting cubes, blocks and three-dimensional shapes. Now, somewhere along the way to middle school those toys got left behind, but the cubes, blocks, and three-dimensional shapes still serve as valuable manipulative materials.

Manipulatives help students of all ages learn and understand math concepts, from counting to multiplication and division. Break out these manipulatives — foregoing toys in an effort to respect the maturity of eighth graders — to introduce more complex math concepts in a way students can see and touch (and talk about).

  • These manipulatives do not necessarily have to be concrete either! Recent educational technology developments even allow students to use virtual manipulatives on a touchscreen or laptop.

Your students will benefit from “seeing” math concepts in a new way. As they progress, some Tier 1 students will likely leave the tactile manipulatives behind as they “get it.” Tier 2 and 3 students can continue to refer back to the objects (virtual and/or physical) for to help form better understandings and reinforce prior knowledge.

3) Introduce and Review Math Vocabulary

As you know, math is its own language. Beginning in the early grades, your students learned terms like “sum“, “difference“, or “addend“. These words (hopefully) became part of their everyday vocabulary. However, these mathematics terms often require revisiting and scaffolding, regardless of the student’s current learning level and goals.

Post a running list of math vocabulary in the classroom and review it often. Harkening back to strategy one, ask students to journal about specific terms and real world application. It will be interesting to see how each student uniquely describes the term “factor” or “exponent.” Allow students to draw, diagram or provide examples of terms rather than memorizing a textbook definition. Learning the vocabulary will help all students become more familiar with math concepts.

In respect to your RTI model, you can stratify the complexity of the terms and the method of reviews between the tiers. For example, Tier 1 students might be best suited to learn more complex terms, as necessary, while Tier 2 and 3 students can continue to revisit learned terms via differentiated modalities as they develop needed comprehension.

4) Think Aloud

When teaching, or re-teaching, math concepts, using a “Think Aloud” activity is a great method for students to understand, hear, and see what’s going on in your head as you solve the problem or work through a mathematical process.

Walk students through several examples by thinking aloud each step of the way. Encourage struggling students to model the “think aloud” process by asking them to explain each step as they go. This can be done in a whole-class, small group, or partner setting.

While Tier 1 students often “get it” without further explanation, thinking aloud helps break complex processes down into manageable steps for Tier 2 and 3 students. Also, by hearing and seeing explanations from their peers, students often have “light bulb” moments that may not have clicked during your teacher-led instruction.

Tell us about strategies you use in your RTI math classroom!

These four strategies and activities are only the tip of the iceberg of what is possible within your math classroom. There are many more flexible ways to meet the mathematics learning needs of your students, and we’d love to hear your great strategies and ideas!

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