7 Math Intervention Strategies for Primary Students


Let’s talk math… Do you ever feel like teaching reading small groups and targeted reading intervention gets all the spotlight, time, and resources at your school? Do you ever feel like you know you have kids struggling in math too, but you don’t know how best to help them master those foundational skills?

Well you aren’t alone! You can use what you know works best in reading and phonics intervention and teach math intervention in the same way. Determine gaps in understanding and target these gaps through skill-based small group instruction.

Does putting together math intervention materials make your head spin? Are you sitting here thinking about where to even start when it comes to finding research-based, high quality math intervention materials? I have all of it for you with the click of a button! I’m talking assessments, differentiated activities, and digital games all in one place. Check out my math intervention kit on Education to the Core Premium


Before You Start the Math Intervention Strategies

Just like with reading intervention a great place to start is with an assessment. This will help you determine what gaps or areas of need your students might have.

Take a look at how your students are doing in their Tier 1 instruction. Analyze their progress on classroom assessments. Target the students that are not making adequate progress and dig in a little deeper with an assessment that focuses on early numeracy skills.

Using the data collected from your assessment, plan math groups based on the needs of your students. Keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses students showed both in classroom assessments and your math screener data.

Place students with similar needs together. Make note of any concepts that all students struggled with. These topics are best addressed in whole group. Leave small group time for concepts that only a few students need.

Now that you’ve got your groups formed it’s time to plan what and how to teach these vital math concepts. Here are the 7 math intervention strategies that your students need to be strong mathematicians for the next grade and beyond. I’ve also included BRIGHT IDEAS for how to teach each one.

#1: Counting Strategies

All of math is built on a strong foundation of number sense. The beginning of any student’s number sense journey starts with counting. Counting may start out as easy as 1, 2, 3, but there’s much more you see!

Students need to not only be able to rote count and follow the pattern of our number system, but they need to understand it deeply. Teach your students the connections that are in the base ten system by helping them see the patterns on a hundreds chart.

This visual representation of 0-100 is an important tool for so many math concepts. Playing games like Race to 100 and 100s Chart Puzzle can help students connect the dots and use the 100s chart to become even better at counting fluently from any number.

Speaking of counting from any number, that is another important aspect of making sure your struggling students are building good number sense. Being able to start at any number and continue counting forward or backward is vital in building fluency with adding and subtracting. Oral Counting Cards give specific prompts for places to start and stop in order to get your kids counting on with fluency in no time.

Finally, when teaching counting strategies make sure to focus on one-to-one correspondence. This skill is essential to understanding the value of numbers and groups of objects. If you have a student struggling with one to one correspondence, help them by teaching them to move each object as they touch it and to make groups to keep track of the objects they count.

Start small with structuring numbers to 10 and incorporate 10-frames for extra scaffolding. As students become increasingly accurate at counting objects to 10, move to 20, and beyond. Keep it fun with using different manipulatives like bears, chips, and small erasers.


Tallies are a great strategy to introduce to your students when reinforcing counting strategies! Tallies are simple. They are grouped into fives, making it easy for students to keep track and learn to skip count at the same time.


#2: Subitizing Math Intervention Strategies

Subitizing? What even is that? Don’t panic if you aren’t sure about what that means. Subitizing is teaching students to quickly recognize the quantity of objects without having to count each one. 

We want our students to be good at this skill because subitizing helps students count quicker and more efficiently. Subitizing also is important because students that can subitize free up more cognitive space for tasks such as adding and subtracting.

A great way to practice subitizing is with dice or dominoes. The easy to recognize patterns on both dominoes and dice make them a great way to teach friendly sight recognition of a quantity.

A great warm up to play with your students is to put dice or domino images of various quantities in a quick slideshow or under the doc cam and give your students a count of three to quickly count the number of dots then have everyone shout out the quantity.


If students are struggling with subitizing, work with them in a small group on this skill. Domino Match and How Many are There? are great ways to help students quickly decide if a number matches a patterned quantity and will help build fluency with subitizing.

#3: Writing Numbers Strategies

Handwriting is not just important in reading and writing. It matters greatly if students can correctly form each of the digits 0-9 and then use these digits to write any number. Practice first correct formation: top to bottom and each digit formed with minimal pencil pick ups. These basic skills are easy to skip but good handwriting builds strong neural pathways in students’ brains!

Our struggling students need extra practice with number writing because we want them to be able to do it quickly without having to think about what each number looks like. Practice daily by building a number of the day into your everyday math routines. This not only incorporates number writing but also helps students learn other ways to represent the number of the day.


Have a student that’s still stuck on writing their numbers? Use Number Writing to 20 Cards to give extra practice. These cards have tracing lines so students can explicitly focus on the formation of each number and build confidence to be skilled number writers in no time.

#4: Place Value Intervention Strategies

Place value is a meaty, big area of early math numeracy so don’t get discouraged if you feel like you are spending the majority of your small group (and whole group!) time in this area. Place value is the understanding of the values of the digits in a number and their relationship to each other in order to form a quantity.

Students need to work in hands-on ways to build strong place value knowledge. Make sure you break out those tens rods, hundreds flats, and ones cubes in your math groups to get students manipulating numbers and representing the values of digits in numbers.

Keep things organized by having students build each number using a place value work mat. This representation is powerful and will help students visually see how each digit is worth ten times more.

As students get confident with building numbers with place value blocks you can use place value cards as another way to show the value of each digit. Use the cards in the same way as the blocks and “build” numbers to understand the value of digits in each place value.


Did you know that expanded form is another way to model place value? Make sure to incorporate it into your lessons about place value. Teach students that by adding up how much each digit is worth based on the place value you will always get right back to the number itself!

#5: Comparing Numbers

Comparing numbers is a great skill that can be taught in conjunction with place value. As students begin to understand the value of digits in place value they should also work on ordering and comparing numbers. Make sure to ask students questions like “Which number is larger/smaller? How do you know?” This gives students a chance to explain and model their thinking.

Another important part of comparing numbers is greater than and less than, and the symbols that go along with these terms. These math terms become as important as the equal sign as students get older. Make sure to spend lots of time solidifying students’ understanding of the symbols, as well as what it means for a quantity to be greater or less than another quantity. Games like sorts, number war and clip task cards are great ways to give repeated practice with greater and less than terms.


10 more, 10 less, 1 more, 1 less is a great way to reinforce comparing numbers, place value, and counting strategies all in one. Use a laminated number more and less chart as a simple warm up for students each day as a way to practice this skill!

#6: Math Intervention Strategies to Add

Once you have built a strong foundation in place value, counting and quantity representation, and comparison, your students are ready to put all these skills together and focus on learning strategies to add. Start with the most simple techniques and slowly introduce students to more complex addition concepts.

When students are just beginning to add make sure they have visual representations of each number so they can physically count and add the quantities together. Beginning addition is focused on the strategy of “counting all” so don’t be surprised when students count starting at one each time. Encourage your littles to practice their counting strategies of one-to-one correspondence and moving and grouping their quantities in order to keep track of the addition problems.

As students get fluent with counting all when adding, it is important to transition them to the more efficient strategy of counting on. This is where students start with the larger number in the addition problem and then just count on the smaller number.

Students can use counters, tallies, place value cubes, a number line, or their fingers to count on. The more ways you practice this the stronger and more fluent your students will be at counting on. Before you know it they will be ready for strategies that move them from concrete to abstract representations.


If you have students that are struggling with that transition to abstract representations of addition, focus on some intermediary strategies to help bridge the gap.

Part-part-whole and learning to make ten are two strategies that work well to create a deeper understanding of addition. Part-part-whole is a great one to use if you have students that struggle to understand that the “answer” in an addition problem can also be broken up into the parts.

Making ten is perfect for your students that are learning to regroup ones into tens and add double digit numbers but still need scaffolding and hands-on support. Don’t forget to pull out those place value cubes to use when teaching students to make ten when adding!

#7: Math Strategies to Subtract

The last area to focus on in early math intervention is the one where students are making the least – strategies to subtract! As students get comfortable with counting strategies make sure they are also practicing counting backwards. This is so important for foundational subtraction skills.

Connect counting back to subtraction by reinforcing count back as an important strategy to subtract. Kids naturally tend to want to take away from the whole by counting up to the number being subtracted. This is completely fine. A great strategy for using take away is to have students draw dots and “X” them out to subtract. So why focus on counting back? Well, this will help train students’ brains to think about subtraction as the inverse of addition and visualize the decreasing quantities that are a result of subtraction.


Zero can be a tricky number when it comes to subtraction. Make sure you explicitly teach what students should do when they are subtracting a zero – absolutely nothing!

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Conversely, expose your students to the concept that when you subtract the same quantity as you originally start with the result is zero. By incorporating these mini- lessons into your math small groups about subtraction you’ll clarify any misconceptions students may have about that pesky zero.

So, now it’s your turn. Gather up your math assessment data, make your groups, and teach your students to have strong number sense, counting skills, and foundational addition and subtraction strategies today, tomorrow, and beyond. 

Make math small groups and daily structured math review a part of your everyday math block and you’ll be blown away by your students’ understanding of number sense before you know it.

Written by: Andrea Gudmundson

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