What are the differences in RTI for Reading versus Math?

Question: What are the differences in RTI for Reading versus Math?

Lynn Fuchs: So Math and Reading RTI have the same structure. We have a need to identify students who are at risk for poor learning outcomes so we do screening. We have a need to deliver an intervention to students who are designated as having risk for poor learning outcomes so we have a tier two intervention. We have a need to figure out whether students who have received tier two intervention have responded or not, and so we have a need to conduct progress monitoring over the course of the tier two intervention to quantify a student's responsiveness so we do progress monitoring as part of RTI, whether its reading or math. And for students who don't respond we need more intensive interventions to address their individual learning needs and so we have tier three intervention regardless of whether its reading or math. But there are some challenges that exist for math that are different than for reading. With reading precursor skills generally facilitate the learning of later skills such that if we conduct early prevention activities we are hopeful that students will progress through school with good outcomes. Now that's not always true, there is a certain percentage of students who emerge around 4th or 5th grade with reading comprehension problems and we have to be on the outlook for, to pick up those children, to intervene when we can first identify those reading comprehension difficulties. But in math the problems are more complicated because the curriculum in math changes; takes certain twists and turns that is not true in the case of reading. So for example, in early math we have a curriculum that comprises calculation skill, including retrieval of basic facts, we have word problems, we have early kinds of geometry and measurement; we have a very heavy emphasis on number concepts. But beginning around 4th and 5th grade we have a dramatic new topic that's introduced to the curriculum which is fractions and some of what children learn about number concepts in the primary grades does not really facilitate, and may in fact make learning of fractions more difficult. So, for example, students learn that the number 8 is larger than the number 5 but when we get to the topic of fractions the number 1/8 is smaller than 1/5. That's a source of tremendous confusion. We also have two numbers within a single fraction that students have to think of as one quantity. That's often confusing to students and then when we get to around 8th and 9th grade the topic of algebra is introduced and throughout high school very different branches of mathematics are required in every grade. So, math creates challenges for school systems such that when we intervene in kindergarten and first and second grade and firm up children's' understanding of number, and calculation and word problem skill that doesn't create always the foundation that they need to prepare them for the challenges that emerge as the math curriculum becomes more complicated and diverse.