Remediate the Skill, Not the Standard - Math Coach's Corner

Remediate the Skill, Not the Standard

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

You’ve got your data in hand, and now you’re ready to remediate. How do you start? Of course narrowing it down by standard is your first step. You see that four kiddos missed Question 19, which is coded TEK 5.3E. In Texas, 5.3E is considered a readiness standard, which means it will be tested more heavily on our state test. You definitely want to put the readiness standards at the top of your remediation list. The TEK reads as follows:

5.3E Solve for products of decimals to the hundredths, including situations involving money, using strategies based on place-value understandings, properties of operations, and the relationship to the multiplication of whole numbers.

Great! Obviously, these kiddos don’t know how to multiply, right? So you put them all in the same group and remediate multiplication. Not so fast!  Take a look at Question 19:

Remediate the Skill Example
Does this student know how to multiply? Absolutely! Notice that each of the wrong answer choices signals a different need. This student knows how to multiply, but doesn’t understand place value. Look at answer choices C and D. Can you tell what a student who chose one of those answers did wrong? That’s right–he added the numbers, rather than multiplying them. Armed with this additional information, how do you proceed? Often teachers take the approach of just reviewing the problem with students and pointing out what they did wrong. That’s not really remediation. Consequently, that approach won’t really help students in the long run. Let’s look at how to remediate each need.

Students who chose A lack an understanding of place value. Furthermore, they aren’t attending to the whole numbers to determine if their answer is reasonable or not. Just by glancing at the whole numbers, students should be able to determine that 2 x 17 is 34, so B has to be the reasonable choice. Check out this post for tips on how to develop decimal number sense using activities like the one shown below, which you can grab for free.

The student who chose C or D did not visualize multiplication when reading this problem. The approach I would take with him is to practice drawing models of both addition and multiplication problems to help him see the math in each situation. I wouldn’t even necessarily use decimals or have him actually solve the problems–just draw the models. I want him to practice identifying the operation, not computation.

Data can be a friend or foe, depending on how we use it. I hope you found these tips helpful!


  1. Gayle Monroe

    This is great! I can use strategies like this with my 3rd graders!

  2. AA

    I would love for you to do a blog post on how your campus identifies students who need to come see you as well as how you plan for your lessons you do in your room. Do you follow set interventions? Is there a way you track growth with the kids you see as well as once a kiddos comes to you, do they ever exit that tier of RTI?

    • Donna Boucher

      Big, BIG topic! There are whole books written on the subject! To be honest, it’s an ever evolving process. Identifying students is an inexact science and is based on a number of factors. I do not follow set interventions–our district has provided us a resource (Do the Math), but I find that I need to supplement it heavily. It is also dependent on the needs of the students. Yes, hopefully they exit RTI because their gaps are filled! For some, however, the next step is additional testing.

      • Yngrid

        Love this post. I’m a new teacher and I’m trying to find a way on how to track my student’s learning. I created a data folder for the students where they’ll fill out the teaks that they missed. Other than that, I don’t know what else to do! Can ypu please give me some advise? Than you!

  3. Betsy Bucy

    Love this! I totally agree, knowing which problem missed is the beginning. Thank you for walking through this analysis!


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