Every student is unique, with different instructional gaps at different levels. Typically, students are instructed according to grade level and with an assumption they have mastered all the preceding building blocks necessary for grade-level math instruction. But this is often not the case. It is imperative that an effective intervention provide a tiered model for student instruction and assessment while identifying skill gaps, especially below level, and tailoring instruction to focus on the most-needed content.

At Tier 1, it is assumed that regular classroom instruction incorporates differentiated learning—specific strategies, tools, or approaches that meet the varied needs present within a typical heterogeneous classroom. For instance, teachers may employ text, visuals, manipulatives, audio support, small or large-group problem-solving or other techniques.

Tier 2 Interventions typically feature individualized instruction. Whereas differentiation at Tier 1 assumes that a variety of instructional strategies will meet the needs of most students, Tier 2 intervention becomes specifically personalized to each individual student. Individualization includes attention to both learning style—how a student learns best—and content—what a student needs to learn. Personalization also applies to advanced students, allowing them to accelerate at an increasing pace.

Drilling Down on Student Skills and Gaps

Ideally, Tier 2 interventions target a student’s actual level of performance rather than his or her grade level, and reflect the reality that a single student may be functioning at a variety of instructional levels within and across academic subjects and domains within a subject area. For instance, a student may understand multiplying fractions, but not dividing fractions.

If a student does not respond to Tier 2 intervention, despite fidelity of implementation, he or she progresses to Tier 3. Tier 3 intervention requires significantly more individualized intervention, combining some aspects of Tier 2 intervention with additional instructional content and/or strategies based on specific student needs, as well as increased intervention time.

Ascend Math is one of the few math intervention programs to provide a truly individualized study plan for each student. Recognizing that many students have not mastered all the preceding building blocks necessary for grade-level math instruction, Ascend provides a platform where students work at multiple functional grade levels of proficiency within the same class. 

Based on the results of the diagnostic assessment, Ascend Math teachers may address multiple levels of intervention simultaneously. A single Ascend Math classroom of eighth graders may simultaneously have 67 percent of students working at third grade level in math, 19 percent at a fourth grade level, and the remaining students spread out between fifth and seventh.  Ascend Math reaches each student at his or her functional grade level, addressing individual skill gaps, resulting in impressive gains on benchmark tests.

Separating Mastery from Need

Once the student has been assigned to a level, he or she takes a pre-assessment over the first unit of instruction. Ascend automatically removes learning objectives in which the student is proficient. Ascend Math then automatically directs students to instruction for non-mastered objectives indicated by the student’s pre-assessment scores.  Students will demonstrate mastery on a post assessment prior to moving on to the next lesson in a logical math sequence. Therefore, using the state standards appropriate to each district, Ascend Math automatically individualizes instruction and assigns each student a carefully-articulated study plan based on pre-assessment results.

Multimedia Instruction

Each student receives a rich, differentiated learning experience through Ascend Math’s technology. Lessons include:

  • video-based direct instruction by mathematics education experts;
  • audio and video support to ensure conceptual understanding of mathematics concepts;
  • rewards and activities to increase motivation and engagement;
  • interactive exploration using visually-rich manipulative tools;
  • traditional practice with opportunities for re teaching;
  • and assessment to ensure mastery of skills.

Automatically Adjusted Pathways Decrease Frustration

Ascend Math’s instructional approaches support a variety of kinesthetic learners, English Language Learners, and Special Education students. Students progress at their own pace through the program, and learning pathways are adjusted automatically as skills and concepts are mastered.

For example, students complete a grouping of objectives quickly and then move on to the next brief pre-assessment thereby building an individual study plan one piece at a time.  In this way, students who have been frustrated feel encouraged as they successfully fill skill gaps quickly.

Ascend meets students at their actual level of mastery—identifying skill gaps and tailoring instruction to focus on the most-needed content.

Learn more about the Six Critical Components of a Strong Math Intervention Program and the Ascend Math Model.

Part four of this series will focus on Progress Monitoring.

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