9 Ways To Deliver Effective Maths Interventions That Will Fix Any Gaps At KS2

In this article we’re looking at how to deliver an effective maths intervention for KS2 at primary school. We’ve drawn together the common threads we hear from talking with hundreds of teachers and school leaders every week as well as our own experience leading maths intervention programmes for over 8,000 pupils every week.

We are one-to-one KS2 maths intervention programme specialists as we believe this is the most effective and efficient way to make rapid progress in maths. However we understand that this isn’t always going to suit the needs of every school which is why we’re taking a broad look at all the options for your maths intervention.

What are effective maths interventions?

Effective maths interventions at primary mean educational initiatives and support given to pupils in addition to their daily lessons in class.

The goal of these is usually to plug gaps in maths but it can also be to accelerate the speed of pupils’ learning or to develop understanding of particular mathematical concepts.

These maths or numeracy interventions can take many forms at KS2 from expensive large scale programmes you buy in, to internally resourced extra booster sessions run by a teaching assistant or specific intervention maths teacher.

Sadly, not all maths interventions actually answer the needs of the school who’s introduced it, which is why we are focusing this article on effective maths interventions.

For any primary school intervention to be effective it needs to succeed on the terms you set for it whether that’s higher SATs results, improved reasoning or more maths talk in your school.

Read more: What The Best Catch Up Numeracy Programmes Look Like in Year 6

How to kick start your KS2 maths intervention strategy 

Look at the data from your own internal assessments

It may be that after reviewing the Year 6 tracking data for the first half of term you experience that familiar feeling of despair at the number of curriculum gaps in Maths that some pupils need to overcome before SATs.

Perhaps at a meeting with the Maths coordinator, or KS2 phase leader you discover that already lower down the school, a couple of children in Year 4 or Year 5 are persistently not meeting their age related expectations.

Or maybe you’re aware it’s actually more of a whole school issue that needs to be addressed – perhaps recent assessments have highlighted problem solving as an issue across the key stages?

Whatever the issue, until you’ve looked in detail at your school’s most recent maths assessment data, ideally broken down by topic and domain. you won’t have a good source of truth to base your decision making on.

Assess the size of your maths intervention needs

If it’s a whole school issue, you may be looking at intensive, high-cost primary numeracy strategy.

If it’s just one or two children you might be able to nip any mathematical misconceptions in the bud.

But what’s most likely is that you’ve got several pupils in different year groups who need regular catch up maths interventions to enable them to join their year group maths lessons.

A maths intervention doesn’t have to be all or nothing

Children in every age group deserve the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence in maths to help them progress and if it looks like the current model at your school isn’t working, it might be a good idea to see what needs changing.

But don’t panic, an effective maths intervention doesn’t need to cost huge amounts of money!

Hundreds and probably thousands of schools are in similar situations to you, and there is a broad range of primary school intervention programmes you can look at particularly for Maths; not all of them are high-cost and many of them are proven to really make the difference you need.

Primary School Maths Intervention Checklist

Stop wasting money on interventions that cost a lot but don't deliver the outcomes your pupils need

Decide if you can resource an effective maths intervention using your own staff

The first step for any school looking to implement an effective maths intervention is to look at your own resources. Do you have HLTAs or maths specialist teaching staff who you can rely on to deliver additional maths support that fulfils different pupils’ needs. Consider whether you can then redeploy your teaching assistants to cover for these expert maths teaching staff?

Are your teaching staff motivated to teach maths interventions or do they need training ? Are they willing to shuffle their timetable to provide the additional support.

Some schools find, with a bit of creative timetabling, and increasing use of catch up, same day interventions they are able to resource the extra support their pupils need internally.

Some schools can only hold maths interventions after school. Other schools use assembly time to run interventions for specific pupils.

What if you can’t resource your maths interventions using current staff ?

Not all schools are lucky enough to have a brilliant Teaching Assistant who can help them out. Often in fact teaching assistants are not necessarily the best placed staff members to run the interventions.

Even your class teachers may not have the expertise in teaching mathematics, breaking down mathematical concepts and developing maths skills that’s needed to really deepen understanding in KS2 pupils.

If this is the case you will need to look to an external provider for your primary school’s maths intervention programme.

The rest of this article looks as considerations when using an external provider.

Considerations when choosing a KS2 maths intervention programme

Here we look at your options and what should you look for when choosing an effective KS2 maths intervention.

1. Identify the pupils who need support

Is it just three or four pupils in each year group, are there 15 who are at risk of not making required progress or are you in fact looking for a whole class solution? 

Do the children have any special educational needs or additional support requirements?

2. Understand your reasons for an intervention

These are some of the questions you should consider:

  • Are pupils not making enough progress or do you need to also support more able pupils in order to stretch and challenge these particular children?
  • Is it just a short term boost that’s needed for SATs or are you looking for more long-term gains in confidence and attitudes to Maths?
  • Is it a couple of very specific learning gaps that need plugging or is there a general need to develop their reasoning skills?
  • Are there children with specific mathematical difficulties that need to be addressed with this maths interventino.

3. Assess your budget or resources for a numeracy intervention

Many schools use their pupil premium funding for their mats interventions as often it is these children who need the help most.

65% of the 8,000 pupils Third Space is teaching 1-to-1 Maths each week are in receipt of pupil premium to help close their gaps in Maths.

If you are targeting non-pupil premium children, consider how you can fund these pupils’ support or support them without spending money. Is there any unspent budget?

Can you do a deal with an intervention provider or join forces with other schools in your cluster or academy trust to improve your purchasing power.

Most providers, including Third Space are happy to agree a plan that fits an individual school, a group of schools or a multi academy trust budget.

Read more

4. Do your research into the maths interventions available and which will work in your school

The next step is to research which maths intervention will support your pupils the best with the set-up you have. If for example an intervention requires laptops or the internet and you know that your wifi connection only works in the morning (!) or in a certain area of the school then factor this in when you’re selecting the intervention. Be prepared to be flexible.

Ask questions in Facebook groups or on Twitter. Do teachers provide good reports or case studies about the impact or effectiveness of the intervention.

Talk to other schools, attend teachmeets, maths showcases such as Third Space run or even education speed dating sessions. The great advantage of such local events is that often schools near you will have pupils with similar issues.

And don’t forget to refer to the EEF toolkit for an overview of effectiveness of intervention strategies.

1-to-1 tuition for example is proven to make 5 months additional progress but some providers are quite costly; at Third Space we’ve managed to reduce our costs to schools by delivering the maths interventions online.

5. Plan up front how you’re going to measure and report on the effectiveness of the intervention

Just as you are held accountable by Ofsted for how you’re spending your pupil premium, or the measures you are putting in place to narrow the attainment gap, so you should challenge any intervention provider to do the same.

For example an effective maths intervention provider should be able to ffer you a pre-test and post-test on the topics covered in order that you can monitor progress in understanding..

If you are evaluating the softer skills of your pupils such as their confidence in maths, or an improved attitude and growth mindset, consider how any numeracy intervention programme can help you prove this.

Will case studies of individual pupils prove the impact your intervention had on your pupils to your headteacher and governors?

At Third Space, we offer diagnostic tests at the start of every term for pupils both to identify the gaps in Maths that we will be able to plug but also to benchmark for progress.

impact for interventions
Results of initial diagnostic assessment

6. Follow best practice to maximise impact of interventions

Any effective maths intervention provider should have enough experience of the different ways schools have interacted with their intervention to be able to highlight how to get the most out of it, or indeed what challenges you might face.

Make sure for example that any KS2 maths intervention programme can segue neatly with what pupils are doing in class, and that they can adapt their teaching to match your calculation policy or primary maths scheme of work your following.

Look also at how the intervention impacts on pupils’ attitudes to maths as helping to build confidence or developing a pupil’s growth mindset around Maths will have long term benefits for years to come.

These pupils have many more years of Maths ahead of them, and so often it’s the emotional barriers that need breaking down even more than the mental ones.

fractions
Examples of a Third Space online lesson on fractions

7. Think about the children not receiving the intense numeracy interventions

Try to ensure also that your maths intervention will have as wide-reaching an effect as possible e.g. while our 1-to-1 Maths lessons may transform maths attainment for a single cohort of pupils (perhaps 10 to 15 in a class or year group), we also make available for every teacher and every pupil in the school our toolkit of high quality teaching resources, assessment and online CPD through our online maths hub.

Before you choose your maths intervention speak to all the relevant staff members (headteachers, maths co-ordinators, other year group teachers, business managers) to establish what additional benefit they might derive from any maths intervention you choose.

Often the cheapest intervention (usually using your own staff to deliver it) may not be either the most effective, or the best value for money if you then have to think about how staff redeployment will affect other classes, and how you will cover or rearrange the timetable.

Once you know your budget you will have a better idea of what’s available to you and what the pros and cons might be.

8. Ask detailed questions about the pedagogy of any maths intervention programme

As a teacher or school leader, you’ll know what effective teaching looks like, but it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it entails. To help you ascertain if your maths intervention programme is developed and tested appropriately for maximum success, it’s worth checking at the start if it incorporates some of these essential maths strategies for teaching at KS2:

  • recapping prior learning
  • using and sharing correct maths vocabulary
  • creating opportunities for pupil talk
  • using deeper questioning strategies
  • developing metacognition
  • moving from scaffolding to independent practice
  • using praise and effective feedback (including AfL)

9. Be aware of the common challenges around maths interventions

Organising and running a maths intervention programme that effectively supports primary pupils who need it isn’t easy. These are some of the most common challenges schools tell us they face:

  • Supporting specific groups e.g. SEN and EAL pupils effectively.
  • Managing and allocating the the school’s budget, particularly pupil premium funding, to afford interventions.
  • How to provide a quick, intensive boost for SATs when schools realise in Year 6 that some pupils are going to really struggle and the results will suffer.
  • Finding the time and resources to plan and deliver interventions.

Your school may well face these or other challenges. They’re normal! The important thing is to be aware of the challenges and risks before you commit to your primary school intervention programme. Make sure too you have a plan in place to combat any foreseeable future problems.

Which sort of maths intervention should you choose?

Aside from using intevention teachers (who can be expensive) or TAs (who may not be best qualified), these are the three most popular types of external maths interventions that schools use. In each case you need to consider very carefully the needs of your pupils and your school to choose the maths intervention programme that’s right for you.

1. Maths websites and online resources

These websites are easily accessed and are now being used as a standard “go-to” numeracy intervention when teachers want to give their pupils some additional help but don’t have the time to plan structured and individualised interventions.

Pros: The advantage of these is that per pupil they’re usually quite cheap but they don’t necessarily tackle the real root of any Maths misconceptions. Their ‘personalisation’ is often fairly rudimentary and ‘broad brush’. eg a child will be offered harder or easier questions to do but they will not necessarily be based on the child’s gaps.

Cons: Although these websites can be good for a short term “quick win” but in the long term, children can become disengaged and their learning may not be maximised considering the time they have to spend online.

2. 1-to-1 / small group maths tutors

Many teachers report to us that 1-to-1 specialist maths tutors would be the intervention of their choice if budgets were unlimited. However for most schools, such an intensive personalised numeracy intervention seems out of reach.

Pros: 1-to-1 tuition is probably the most effective way to accelerate progress in maths. A lesson is fully personalised to the needs of the pupil and the pupil is free to ask questions and talk through their understanding at their own pace.

Cons: Face to face 1-to-1 tuition can be expensive.

3. Online 1-to-1 maths tuition

At Third Space we recognise that 1-to-1 maths tuition is a great solution for most pupils, but it is often time-consuming and costly; this is why we’ve used technology to take Maths tuition online.

Each of the pupils we work with receives their own personal maths specialist tutor for the term, and undertakes a formative diagnostic assessment at the start to create their own individualised sequence of maths lessons that are then delivered by personal tutors.

Pros: All the benefits of 1-to-1 tuition combined with the diagnostic and machine learning technology we have implemented. This ensures that lessons are pitched at the right level for each child and that tutors know what to say and when to move learning on to the next stage. We put Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development into practice to achieve rapid progress in a short space of time.

As well as practice on the maths concepts, children are given time and encouragement to explain their answers and justify their reasoning during the lessons, to help them on their journey to mastery.

Because of the range of tutors we have available, all maths specialists, and trained in the primary KS2 curriculum we are able to provide 1-to-1 tuition for up to 15 pupils at one time in a school, minimising disruption and making it easy to set up.

Cons: Online 1-to-1 maths tuition is not suitable for children with some severe special needs or for children below the age of about 6 or 7. They need to be able to sit and communicate for 45 minutes with a tutor.

What next?

Armed with your 8-step checklist, and some background on the interventions available, you’re now ready to take giant leaps in improving the maths outcomes for your pupils.

It is of course our belief that Third Space Learning’s maths intervention is  the most effective way to accelerate KS2 pupils’ progress in Maths. We are so sure, that we offer a 6 week no quibble money back guarantee to ALL primary schools!

But you will need to do your own research at this point to decide what is going to work best for your school, especially with the new National Tutoring Programme providing additional funding for tutoring for your school.

When you’re ready, I encourage you to book a 5 minute phone call with one of our extremely friendly schools team and see if Third Space is right for your school.

Do you have pupils who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of pupils across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress. Since 2013 we’ve helped over 60,000 primary school pupils become more confident, able mathematicians. You can learn more about our interventions or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.

Sophie Waterman-Smith
Sophie Waterman-Smith
Third Space Learning
Teacher
Sophie grew up in Brighton and taught Maths in a secondary school. In between working with our schools, she writes about the teachmeets she attends on our blog.
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Primary School Maths Intervention Checklist

Stop wasting money on interventions that cost a lot but don't deliver the outcomes your pupils need

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Downloadable resource

Primary School Maths Intervention Checklist

Stop wasting money on interventions that cost a lot but don't deliver the outcomes your pupils need

Download Now!