Differentiating instruction for students who fail to thrive in mathematics: the impact of a constructivist-based intervention approach

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In this paper we explore how participation in a constructivist-oriented, classroom aligned mathematics intervention program advanced the learning and positive dispositions of Grade 1 students who were failing to thrive when learning mathematics. Intervention programs are an approach to differentiated instruction that some schools adopt, but there are questions about whether such interventions advance equity and inclusion for students. To provide insight about these issues, we draw on data from the Extending Mathematical Understanding for All study in NSW, Australia (2016-2020) to address two research aims. The first aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of the EMU intervention approach for progressing the mathematics learning of students who were failing to thrive mathematically, and for closing the performance gap with their peers. The second aim was to consider the impact of participating in EMU intervention on students' dispositions for learning mathematics. The findings confirm the potential of intensive constructivist-based intervention approaches for closing the performance gap for students who were not thriving in mathematics, and for improving the learning dispositions of these students. However, two years after the intervention, the performance gap was again apparent for many students. It is likely that a one-off intervention program is not sufficient for enabling all students to thrive mathematically, and that well-focused classroom-based differentiated instruction and further intervention support may be warranted for some students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-233
Number of pages27
JournalMathematics Teacher Education and Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2021


  • Differentiated instruction
  • Equity
  • Inclusion in mathematics
  • Intervention programs
  • Mathematics difficulties
  • Pedagogy

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