Skip to main content

Remediation Vs. Intervention (In Practical Terms)

In a previous post, I discussed how remediation and intervention are different. The difference between these two concepts is so great and so important that I feel it necessary to explain why this difference matters.

To illustrate these differences, let's look at two different students.


Melissa has always been an A/B student. Though she has never been in the top of the class, she has always managed to get by. She doesn't love math, but she realizes its importance in her life. Melissa's parents are available to help her with her homework, and she feels comfortable receiving extra help from her teachers. When Melissa got to middle school, however, she was struggling to keep up. The concepts were moving too fast for her, and switching classes made it difficult for her to get the help she needed. The problems were now requiring her to integrate several math concepts at one time, whereas Melissa had previously only needed to memorize a few ideas at a time. Melissa now has a C in math.

Jason has always hated math - since Kindergarten, when all the other students made it in the "100 club," and he would get flustered counting past 19. He still adds on his fingers, as do his parents, and he only has the 2's, 5's and 10's times tables memorized. Even when he tries really hard to focus in math class, his teacher skips steps and moves too fast. The rest of the class has moved on while he is still trying to figure out 4x8. His teachers have told him he is lazy -  he doesn't even do his homework; he doesn't even try. Jason believes trying is pointless, because he won't understand anyway. He has to keep a C to play sports, so by copying homework, turning in notes, and re-taking tests, he manages to barely make a C.

Both students have the same grade and both are struggling in math, but the approach in helping them MUST be different.

Melissa needs remediation. She needs time to work extra problems. Her teacher should be available for Melissa to ask questions. Additionally, the teacher should spend class time presenting math concepts in different ways. Melissa will need support with the new concepts, and will likely need to revisit previously taught concepts. Mnemonics will aid her in memorization and graphic organizers will help her make important connections.

Jason also needs remediation, but most importantly, he needs intervention. Remediation will not be effective without a systematic intervention plan. In a prior post, I discussed how math concepts build upon themselves, similar to a Jenga game. Jason is missing many, many pieces and his tower will crumble very soon. Jason cannot understand new complex topics, because he does not have the supports in place. He needs explicit instruction in number sense, fact fluency, and computational skills. Without this, he will not be able to pass high school math. This effort will take, at a minimum, a year of daily instruction and practice.
In reality, Melissa will likely get the help she needs to be successful. Jason's case is so difficult and complex, that he will likely never receive the solid foundation he needs to be successful in math.


Intervention, Remediation, Special Education....What is the Difference? Intervention is not reteaching or special education. It is the intentional instruction of targeted skills. This is for the student who is multiple grade-levels below. 

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps? The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways: 1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

The Flipped-Then-Re-Flipped Classroom As exciting as flipped classrooms are, the question is always asked, "What about the students who don't have the technology?"


  1. Thank you for this post! It was very powerful!! I am using it at our school to help people see our jobs as intervention specialist.

    1. I am so glad you found this post useful and that you are sharing it with others at your school. Thanks for reading!


Post a Comment