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Clarke et al. (2014) provide a persuasive case for the role of a theory-of-change model to guide the nature of curriculum development work embodying both a theoretical and empirical knowledge foundation. They illuminate the components of their model, which were used to design and test the efficacy of a Tier 2 intervention for students who met their criteria for at-risk identification of mathematics difficulties. Their model of change is well grounded in the research findings regarding effective instructional delivery practices for struggling students, as well as critical mathematical competencies related to foundational concepts and skills, which purportedly are necessary for later mathematics success. Unfortunately, as Clarke et al. (2014) aptly point out, findings from national assessments (e.g., The Nation's Report Card; National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2013) indicate an alarming rate of poor performance by students who continue to struggle with learning mathematical knowledge. Undoubtedly, a significant number of children demonstrate poor mathematics achievement (Swanson, 2006) that is persistent and pervasive, with long-term problems associated with mathematics difficulties (Geary, 2004; Griffin & Case, 1997). 

Recommendations from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) and Frye et al. (2013) underscore the importance of providing early intervention that uses effective instructional practices for at-risk students. For early mathematics interventions, research results are beginning to inform an understanding of the types of instructional practices and intensity of interventions that contribute to mathematics performance. Thus, the report by Clarke et al. (2014) offers the field promising information about a multicomponent intervention for young children who are at risk for mathematics difficulties within a response-to-intervention (RtI) support system. The purpose of this commentary is to expand on the theoretical implications underpinning the Clarke et al. (2014) intervention study by elaborating on key findings and offering additional insights to situate the study in terms of RtI, a theory of change, and future research.


Bryant, D. P. (2014). Tier 2 intervention for at-risk first-grade students within a response-to-intervention model of support. School Psychology Review, 43(2), 179–184.

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Published Date



Mathematics Instruction
Response to Intervention (RTI)

Type of Resource

Journal Article/Book Chapter



Grade Level