The Key Role of Tiered Intervention

Researchers agree that a tiered system of math intervention is critical to an effective RTI model. The tiered design includes three, increasingly intensive, levels of intervention depending on a student’s needs and ability to successfully respond to a customized learning plan.

Tier 1, Level 1, or Primary Intervention is, in essence, regular instruction delivered in the general education classroom.  Ideally, teachers provide research-based, differentiated instruction based on a student’s particular needs.

Students who lag behind in grade-level skill mastery or have preexisting math deficits are moved to a Tier 2 intervention model.  At this tier, the intensity of both assessment and instruction is greater, with teachers monitoring progress more frequently and adapting individual learning plans as needed.  This adaptation differentiates the instructional experience for each student by acknowledging newly mastered concepts and addressing continued skill gaps.

Based on this timely collection of data, students may be moved back to Tier 1 general classroom instruction, may remain in Tier 2, or may be moved to Tier 3 for even more intensive intervention.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Ascend Math is its ability to empower teachers and administrators with up-to-the-minute data on each student’s progress, allowing for timely decisions about placement. Unlike end-of-the-year state assessments, whose results may not be available to schools until late in the following semester, Ascend Math assessment data can help inform decisions about summer school learning needs and a school’s fall intervention scheduling.

Individualized Solution

There are perhaps fewer things more discouraging to struggling students than being forced to work through a preset battery of lessons that includes skills they’ve already mastered.

Ascend Math’s adaptive Level Recommendation assessment effectively places students at their correct individual functional level. This allows learners to begin to see success immediately. As students progress through their continuously adapted learning plan, Ascend Math automatically removes objectives in which they demonstrate mastery in the pre assessment, infusing an ever-greater level of individualization.

Fidelity a Factor

Students who do not respond to Tier 2 Intervention and are therefore moved to Tier 3, are accommodated with an increase in both frequency and duration of interventions. Typically, failure to respond to Tier 3 Intervention results in a referral for Special Education Services. Thus, it is critical that intervention is implemented with absolute fidelity and that this fidelity is clearly supported through documentation, which Ascend Math provides.  Tier 3 Interventions may require significant flexibility on the part of schools to ensure that class scheduling and staff availability can accommodate the increased intensity of the intervention.


Because Ascend Math is fully automated, time-consuming tasks associated with individualizing student learning experiences are taken off the teacher’s plate.  Students can move seamlessly between intervention tiers as needed, and the challenges of managing groups of students needing multiple levels of intensity are minimized.

The student interface incorporates Growth Mindset and motivational features through games, activities and badges in Base Camp.  Student engagement is enhanced by learning activities that include video, interactive explorations and immediate feedback on practice. Continual assessments ensure students remain engaged, set goals and track progress. Automatically generated dashboards help teachers keep parents and administrators abreast of individual and whole class student progress without adding extra hours to their day.

As an online solution, Ascend Math also offers the advantage of “anytime, anywhere” learning. Beyond classroom hours, students can access the program in computer labs, and before or after school from home or any internet-connected location. This provides schools the flexibility to ensure that learners receive the intervention intensity needed to meet progress goals without over-taxing the staff and school schedule.

Learn more about the Six Critical Components of a Strong Math Intervention Program and the Ascend Math Model.

Part 2 of this series will look at Universal Screening and Adaptive Instruction.

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Ascend Math Honors 37 Schools for Math Leadership!

Ascend Education recently announced that a record 37 schools are being recognized as Gold Medal schools this year.

The Gold Medal Award was established in 2010 to honor the schools or districts that best demonstrate a dedication to ensuring that all students become successful at math. The Gold Medal nominees all used Ascend Math to supplement their math instruction to achieve results better than they would in the normal classroom environment.  All 37 Gold Medal schools or districts will receive an award commemorating their success.

These 37 schools represent some of the best and most successful math implementations in our country during this ESSA era. In each of these schools students made tremendous strides far beyond what they have done in the past without this personalized learning model.  I am extremely proud of the important job these educators are doing to help their students succeed in math, gain confidence and positively advance in life.

The 9,851 students in these 37 Gold Medal schools mastered 271,313 math objectives and worked 191,720 hours in Ascend Math.  Most students gained from 1 to 4 grade levels in math. The complete Honor Roll of all Gold Medalists can be viewed at

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Equity in Education: Achieving a Math Identity

The goal for math equity is to achieve a math identity for all students.

When I think about the many challenges schools and districts face in addressing all students, I also think about the possibilities for success that new opportunities offer such students.

I have just returned from the NCSM conference, an event I looked forward to as an opportunity to dig deeper into the issue of equity in education. The strand on equity offered effective strategies for meeting students on their “cultural turf”.  The speakers shared research and experiences on best ways to overcome the challenges of multicultural classrooms and offered practical solutions.

One of the common themes was how we must focus on student learning and engagement in a way that is relevant to the student given their cultural and socio economic backgrounds.  I am excited about the strategies presented that will allow students to embrace math in ways in which they can identify and speak about math.  Whether in mathematics or equity, we must create an entry point for all participants. Only when students can speak about math in the context of their lives, then they truly have adopted a math identity and become active learners.

I look forward to reflecting on this post and offering new perspectives on math engagement for all.

Stay tuned

Marjorie Briley

Equity Begins with Awareness






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Equity Begins with Awareness

When my husband, Kevin, and I founded Ascend Math back in 2007, it was with the goal of helping to give all kids the gift of math literacy, especially those who may have fallen through the cracks. What we’ve received in return since then has been satisfying proof that Ascend is having a real-world impact on struggling learners. In particular, we’ve noticed that students in underserved communities are making impressive—even dramatic– gains. Examples include students that pass high stakes tests for the very first time sometimes in 8th grade after multiple years of failure.  We recently heard from a teacher, “Ascend participants have gained confidence through completing lessons, and are encouraged through the earning of flags, fireworks and time at Base Camp. This confidence has spilled over into other areas and has manifested itself in better progress monitoring scores, better scores on common assessments and school wide universal screeners.”

The success these kids are enjoying stands for more than just better test scores. In many cases it means envisioning a successful future for the first time. This kind of vision is something that can only be achieved when schools and districts make a conscious effort to reach learners who lack the everyday support many of their peers enjoy.

In my next few notes, I will be exploring the concept of equity, an issue that is much on my mind and the minds of educators across the nation these days. The upcoming National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) conference (April 23rd-25th) offers a dedicated strand on the topic of equity, and I am eager to learn more and share my thoughts about how we might all ensure kids get equal opportunities at learning.

Stay tuned.

Marjorie Briley

Equity Begins with Awareness








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Celebrate Earth Day 2018 with these fun math problems!

A special thank you to the 8th grade math students from Johnsburg Junior High School in IL for submitting the following math problem to the 2018 Earth Day Math Contest:

If a tree grows 5 branches and each of those branches grows an additional 5 branches and each of those grow another 5 branches, how many branches are on the tree?

We hope you enjoy celebrating earth day this week with this fun math problem. This year’s earth day theme is to help end plastic pollution. Here are some problems submitted related to this year’s theme. Enjoy and share with your class!

  1. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away! Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. How many bottles are recycled an hour? How many more would be recycled if the percentage rose to 30%
  2. It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill. If you buried a plastic bottle today what is the soonest date that it would be broken down?
  3. Five recycled plastic bottles provide enough fiber to create one square foot of carpet. If the carpet in your classroom is 50 square feet how many plastic bottles would need to be recycled to make it.
  4. Americans buy 29 billion bottles of water a year, more than any other nation. It takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make this many plastic water bottles. How many billion bottles can be manufactured from one barrel of crude oil?
  5. If 32,000,000 tons of plastic were produced in 2017 and only 9% was recycled, how much plastic was not recycled?
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Earth Day Math Contest 2018

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22. This year’s theme is to end plastic pollution. Celebrate with  your math class this year and remind students to recycle, reuse, and reduce.  The first 10 classrooms to send us their Earth Day Math Problem (with solution) will receive a packet of Earth Day pencils made from recycled newspaper for their students.

Submit your math problem by end of day Friday, April 13 to Be sure to include the name of your class, school and location. Then on Monday April 16 check out the Ascend Math blog to see all the problems that were submitted. Choose your favorites to share with students to celebrate Earth Day.

Try these links for numerous Earth Day Facts and Figures just crying out for you and your students to turn into a fun math problem.

Again, send your math problems to


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Announcing March Mathness V

Are you ready for March Madness, the annual NCAA Men’s basketball tournament? Math plays into this annual event in more ways than you might think. Some of the most popular posts of the past four years have been those celebrating March Mathness, the math behind the sport of basketball!

Check this blog regularly for more fun math problems. Send your ideas for March Mathness math problems to

Here are some favorites to kick off the 1st Round:

If there are 64 teams in the tournament and half are eliminated each round, how many rounds does it take to determine a champion?
A basketball court measures 94 feet by 50 feet. What is the perimeter of the court? What is the area?

College players use a basketball that is 9.4 inches in diameter. The hoop is 18 inches in diameter. If a ball passes exactly through the center of the net, how much space will there be between the edge of the ball and the hoop?
Last year we asked some questions about mascots. Here is another interesting fact, if you were to pick a team to win the championship based on school color, what color would you pick? Blue, more than 75% of the champions have had blue as their school color.

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Happy Pi Day 2018

Pi Day, celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world, is right around the corner. Start your celebration by sharing these sweet Pi Day links with your math students and friends.

A brief history of Pi:
Pi Activities:
Pi Humor:
Pi Song:
Pi Rap:
Pi Facts:

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Olympic Math Events for Your Classroom

Here are a couple of Olympic Math Events to try in your classroom.

  1. Try introducing this concept to students working to understand that each circle is 360°.Two-time Gold Medal Olympian Shaun White landed the best halfpipe run of his career at the U.S. Grand Prix of Snowmass. On the first jump he performed a 1440, on the second a 1080, on the third a 540, and a 1260 on his final jump. To the uninitiated the trick numbers may seem random but most math teachers will figure out quickly that they refer to the degree of rotation the board undergoes while airborne.

    *540 = 540° of rotation or 1 ½ times around
    * 720 = 720° of rotation or 2 times around
    * 1080 = 1080° or rotation or 3 times around
    * 1260 = 1260° or 3 ½ times around
    * 1620 = 1620° or 4 ½ times around

    Here are three challenges you may want to share. As preparation to the challenge remind students that when a snowboarder makes a half turn (180) the board is then backwards.

    CHALLENGE 1:  Shaun White will be trying for his third gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. If one of his jumps is a triple how many degrees of rotation is that?

    CHALLENGE 2:  Jamie Anderson is the reigning Gold Medalist in the 2018 Women’s Winter Olympics Snowboard Slopestyle event. If she performs a 720 followed by a 540 and another 720.  What is the total number of revolutions in her jumps and is her board going backwards or forwards at the end of her run?

    CHALLENGE 3: 2014 Olympic Gold Medalist, Sage Kotsenburg, completed a run that consisted of a 270, 540, 180, 1260, 1080, 1620. What was the total number of revolutions Sage made and was his board backwards or forwards when he ended?

  1. Here is an Olympic Math Event appropriate for Grade 8 and up.If Maame Biney, the first African-American woman to be selected as a speed skater for the U.S. Olympic Team, competes in the 1,000; 1,500; and 10,000 meter events and puts in 6times as much distance practicing before the events. What total distance in kilometers will she have skated during the competition?

    Option: Break students into groups and ask them to solve the problem together. Time each group and post the times. Offer Gold, Silver and Bronze for the three fastest times.

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Celebrate Black History Month with Fun Math Problems

In honor of Black History Month we’ve provided a few fun and challenging math problems. Try these out.

1. On 25 March 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators on a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. According to the American College of Sports Medicine the average step length of an adult is 2.6 feet or about 31 inches. There are 5,280 feet in a mile.

Can you determine how many steps were taken by someone marching the entire distance from Selma to Montgomery Alabama?  (To estimate there are about 2000 steps in a mile)

2. A court order restricted the number of marchers to 300 when passing over a stretch of two-lane highway.  However, on the final day of the march, when the road reached four lanes the number of demonstrators swelled to  25,000.

What was the percentage of increase?

3.  An African-American and son of a former slave, Benjamin Banneker rose to fame as a brilliant scientist, scholar and mathematician.  He wrote and collected mathematical puzzles written in verse.  Here is one that can be a lot of fun to try and figure out. See how close you can come to answering the question “How many leaps did the hound have to make to catch the hare?

When fleecy skies have Cloth’d the ground
With a white mantle all around
Then with a grey hound Snowy fair
In milk white fields we Cours’d a Hare
Just in the midst of a Champaign
We set her up, away she ran,
The Hound I think was from her then
Just thirty leaps or three times ten
Oh it was pleasant for to see
How the Hare did run so timorously
But yet so very Swift that I
Did think she did not run but Fly
When the Dog was almost at her heels
She quickly turn’d, and down the fields
She ran again with full Career
And ‘gain she turn’d to the place she were
At every turn she gain’d of ground
As many yards as the greyhound
Could leap at thrice, and She did make,
Just Six, if I do not mistake
Four times She Leap’d for the Dogs three
But two of the Dogs leaps did agree
With three of hers, nor pray declare
How many leaps he took to Catch the Hare.
Just Seventy two I did Suppose,
An Answer false from thence arose,
I Doubled the Sum of Seventy two,
But still I found that would not do,
I mix’d the Numbers of them both,
Which Shew’d so plain that I’ll make Oath,
Eight hundred leaps the Dog to make,
And Sixty four, the Hare to take.

For hints on solving this complex verse problem see John F. Mahoney’s excellent discussion of this and other Banneker puzzles


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