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Closing the Achievement Gap: Effective Math Intervention

E.D. Hirsh (1993) points out that intellectual capital gives children the “mental scaffolding and Velcro to catch hold of what is going on, and they can turn that knowledge into still more mental Velcro to gain more knowledge.”

Grant and Sleeter invoke Howard Gardner’s point that many students are stronger in spatial, interpersonal, and bodily kinesthetic intelligences than they are in the linguistic and logical mathematical intelligences that are the common focus in most schools. Closing the achievement gap requires attention to all styles of learning.

Manipulative rich lessons, many with a game format, motivate reluctant learners. Students with alternate learning styles acquire basic skills and concepts, and connect those concepts to linguistic assessment with culminating daily activities. Emphasis on interaction among students is designed to accommodate students of varying ages and encourage collaborative problem solving. There is an extensive body of research documenting the effectiveness of cooperative learning in improving student achievement.

Scripted lesson plans provide teachers with a full 40-minute math intervention session for students with minimal preparation. Following the script is optional, but a fall back position for teachers with an already full teaching schedule.

Math Intervention programs can provide a bridge to success for students making the transition to more challenging curriculum by strengthening the skills that they will be required to demonstrate in order to be successful on standardized tests, and in life. We know that engaging and motivating students is best done in a small group by a nurturing and enthusiastic adult with activities that feel relevant as well as fun to students.


Grant, Carl and Sleeter, Christine. Turning on Learning: Five Approaches for Multicultural Teaching Plans for Race, Class, Gender and Disability. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999

Hirsch, E.D. The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them. New York: Doubleday, 1996

Maryland State Department of Education. Minority Achievement in Maryland at the Millennium. Baltimore, MD, 2001

Maryland State Department of Education. Achievement Matters Most: The Final Report of the Visionary Panel for Better Schools. Baltimore, MD, 2002

The Evaluation Exchange. Afterschool Education: A New Ally for Education Reform. Harvard Graduate School of Education. April 2004


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The teachers who presented the program were not surprised at its success. They found the lessons to be well planned, easy to present, and motivational. Students were enthusiastic to attend the after school sessions, even though they were the very students who typically dreaded math class.

Lynn D. Wolf
Principal - Franklin Middle School