Effective maths intervention using On Track Maths

Eleanor Hick is a former Primary Adviser and Inclusion (SEN) Adviser for Lancashire County Council and is now an independent consultant and trainer. Eleanor is the co-author of On Track Maths, a new maths intervention resource for primary schools.

There has been a great deal of pressure on schools to raise expectations of what children can achieve. So far so good! There have been a number of unintended consequences of the approaches used by successive Governments since the 1990s. One has been the perception that in order to ‘get children to where they should be’ one must teach at that level. This has been damaging to children and teachers alike. The key to effective intervention is the same as effective teaching and learning: to start from an accurate picture of what the child can do and understand independently.

What do researchers tell us about intervening?

Anne Dowker (2004) in What works for Children with Mathematical Difficulties?, explains that difficulties are highly individual. She advocates that teachers need to identify the specific strengths and weaknesses of an individual and to investigate particular misconceptions and incorrect strategies that a child may have. She also expresses the view that where intervention is carefully targeted, most children will not require intense intervention.

What makes for successful intervention?

Successful intervention starts with a clear picture or assessment of what the child already knows and can do independently.

Teachers should have a good knowledge of their children but this can be refined by the use of specific checks or assessments. On Track Maths supports this process in two ways. The ‘Identification of Needs and Assessment of Outcomes grids’ enable teachers to pinpoint the point at which a child reaches the edge of knowledge of a particular topic or aspect of the maths curriculum. The final assessment lessons provided could be used to assess knowledge and understanding prior to teaching.

The next step is to start teaching the child from the position of confident knowledge into areas of insecure and new knowledge and skills. Every topic of the maths curriculum (for example Number), has a set of lessons for each year group, enabling teachers to identify the specific set of lessons that matches the needs of their child/children and to take their learning closer to/ up to age-related expectations.

Support staff are a very valuable resource but they cannot make a ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. It is essential that teachers ensure that support staff have sufficient time to read and understand On Track Maths and to read and prepare for each lesson they are leading.

The On Track Maths Teacher’s Book gives valuable guidance on aspects of learning such as memory, asking questions and vocabulary as well as the effective use of support staff and delivery.

On Track Maths provides a targeted approach to maths intervention at Key Stages 1 and 2. It enables teachers to identify gaps in children’s knowledge and understanding across the  primary mathematics curriculum. Once the gaps have been identified, the resource provides a comprehensive range of lessons and activities that can be used to teach, apply, consolidate and assess the learning – providing a firm foundation for progress.

Find out more and download a free sample.

Co-author, Katharine Rogerson, has also provided an overview document of On Track Maths to help introduce the resource to your school. Download here.


  • Anne Dowker – What works for children with Mathematical Difficulties?

  • Department of Education and Skills (24 Jun. 2004)




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