An Evidence-Based Math Curriculum for Special Education and Intervention

Posted by Angela Dansie on

Is this math curriculum a good fit for your students?

Step-by-Step Math to Mastery will boost student gains and lighten teacher workload. 

Watch an overview of the high-leverage and evidence-based practices you'll find in Step-by-Step Math to Mastery lessons. 





Hi, I’m Angela Dansie, a special education and title 1 teacher and creator of Step-by-Step Math to Mastery.  I’m excited to tell you more about my math materials today.


I’ll address 2 major pain points felt by special education & intervention math teachers and how Step-by-Step Math to Mastery can solve and prevent these difficulties.  Then I’ll show you what is included and tell you how to get sample lessons and more.


Let’s begin with the most important pain point, the reason you are here. 

You have students struggling to learn math, shutting down, feeling overwhelmed, and falling behind.


Students shutting down


You might relate to this teacher who said, “Avoidance behaviors escalate during math time.  My kids want to escape. . . So do I.”

But, Math to Mastery resources can turn this around and even get you looking forward to math time as one of the best parts of your school day.


After trying Step-by-Step Math to Mastery, teachers have reported:

I am using several of these units with a couple of students who experienced prenatal alcohol and drug exposure . . . I have seen them go from being completely overwhelmed and shut down in math to being excited to show me their progress each day . . . --Melissa H.


Jacqueline said, “My students are making so many gains! One of my students felt so successful that he asked for homework!  . . .”


Kate adds, “I love the confidence this gives my students!”


Lindsey says, “My intervention students have blossomed using this resource.”


And Kimberly said, “My 4th and 5th grader students with learning disabilities are finally feeling successful in math!”


One more, Danielle says, “This was exactly what I was looking for.  I’ve been using it all school year and I’ve never seen my kids make progress like they have.”


So how does Math to Mastery boost student confidence and lead to unprecedented progress?

By implementing evidence-based and high-leverage practices.  It’s not a very exciting answer, I wish I had developed some brand new formula for teaching, but really I’ve just taken what I was taught in my university studies and put it into practice. 


I’ll briefly outline some of the high-leverage practices I’ve used that make such a big difference for our students. 


🗹  I’ve identified and prioritized long- and short-term learning goals.

Each lesson workbook contains an example IEP goal with shorter-term objectives.

These IEP goals are tied to standards.  Not every common core math standard is covered because the priority is mastering essential foundational math concepts and procedures. 


🗹  Instruction is systematic with the lessons carefully sequenced to build on each other. 

Prerequisite skills are covered thoroughly before a more complex procedure is introduced. 

Material is presented in small, incremental “chunks” derived from task analysis. 


🗹  Curriculum was adapted in ways that make it more universally accessible, minimizing distractions and providing clear, short lessons.

I knew I needed to keep the rigor and expect my students to learn what their general ed peers were learning, but I couldn’t jump to higher order thinking and multiple strategies one after another.  When I tried that, using the curriculum adopted by my school district my students were shutting down and getting nowhere. 

So, the first thing I changed was going from a spiral approach to a mastery approach—focusing on one skill at a time for an extended amount of time, and instead of demonstrating several methods or strategies for a problem, only one strategy is taught at a time—whether it is tapping the dots and counting on for addition or skip counting for multiplication.


The district math curriculum often asked students to write sentences to explain their thinking.  This would lead to blank looks and frustration.  But I found that even my students with limited verbal skills could learn the vocabulary and simply state the steps they are following. 

This adaptation also benefited students with fine motor issues as students are not asked to write many words or sentences and a larger font is used with plenty of space for writing the numerals. 


🗹 Word problems are taught using schema-based instruction. 

Students are taught the common structures: part-part-whole, comparing to find the difference, and change over time or joining and separating. 

Students are also taught to check their answers to be sure they make sense. 


🗹 Another high-leverage practice is providing scaffolded supports. 

For example, structured workspace assists students in lining up columns and prompts them to show their work for every step. 

There are fewer problems on a page, more white space, and minimal visual clutter.

Many practice repetitions are offered, giving students targeted practice until mastery is reached.


🗹 I think the biggest game changer is using explicit or direct instruction. 

I like the quote,

“Math is not made easier by watering it down; it is made easier by explaining it clearly.”


Throughout Math to Mastery, vocabulary, concepts and procedures are taught explicitly. 

There are steps to follow next to each model problem, providing consistent, precise language for teachers to use as they talk through a problem. 


🗹 The last evidence-based practice I’ll mention is the C-R-A approach. 

(Concrete - Representational - Abstract)

My favorite manipulatives to use are base ten blocks, magnetic ten frames, and snap cubes.  If you have these, I encourage you to use them as you model problems, but if you don’t have them—don’t worry—they aren’t required.

Pictures throughout the lessons represent the concepts alongside the more abstract numbers, symbols and words.


✎ So to be clear, Step-by-Step Math to Mastery is NOT:

  • Student-Led
  • Guided Math Centers
  • Discovery Learning
  • Or a Spiral Approach
  • Nor is it a Commercially-Published Program


✎ Math to Mastery IS:

  • Teacher-led
  • Systematic
  • Direct or Explicit
  • A Mastery Approach-Focusing on One Topic for a Period of Time
  • And it was Created by an Experienced Special Education Teacher



It is also a paper-pencil resource.

Computer-based interventions can be appealing, promising to automatically level to students, and self-grade.  They are animated with built-in “rewards”.  All you need to do is place the student in front of the computer and then print the progress report.  I believe that--our students especially--need a human face to look at and learn from, and a paper and pencil to write with if they are able.

So, no matter which resources you choose to use, I encourage you to present new material with encouraging feedback from a live teacher and save the computers and tablets for fun review and extra practice activities.  



This brings me to our second major pain point.

You are spending huge amounts of time planning and preparing lessons for all the different levels in your classroom.


teacher planning


Can you identify with this teacher?

“I have a large caseload. By the time I get plans and materials prepped for each group for reading, writing, and math plus doing my IEP paperwork, I’m working several hours overtime --nearly every day.”

With all that is on your plate, imagine looking forward to math time because it is the easiest part of your day. 


After trying Math to Mastery, teachers reported:

“The practicality of these units is off the charts!!! They make math time so much easier for me to plan!!”


“I have four grades in my classroom, at the same time.  This makes math time stress free, while everyone works on what they need to target.”


“This is a great resource for math rotations.  I teach 4th through 8th grade students on the autism spectrum, and with emotional and intellectual disabilities in a self-contained classroom in a public separate school.  My capable para is able to implement this easily and it is effective in teaching the students.”


And finally, Whitney said, “I was so scared to buy this math bundle because of the price but after 2 months it has easily saved me that much time spent after my contracted hours putting things together.  I can just hand it to my paras and they can teach the students without me micromanaging.”


How does Step-by-Step Math to Mastery lighten the workload for teachers? 

By keeping the format of resources as simple and complete as possible. 


Lessons have a consistent and predictable format with “I Can” statements at the top of each page that state the lesson objective. 

Each lesson has model, guided practice, and independent practice problems. 


🗹 Lesson workbooks contain all that is needed for both the student and the teacher. 

There is no separate teacher manual or lesson plan. 

Resources are designed to be open and teach.  Steps to follow are written next to each model, helping the teacher “think out loud” with clear, precise language.


  1. First, you’ll give the placement test, or a section of that assessment, to find a starting point.
  2. Then, you’ll print the lesson workbook
  3. Each workbook has an example IEP goal and objectives written for you
  4. You can start by teaching a lesson a day and adjust the pace as needed. 
  5. Reviews and tests are included in the workbook. 
  6. When it is complete, you’ll print the next lesson workbook in the sequence and continue on. 


There are 24 lesson workbooks covering basic and multi-digit addition and subtraction, basic and multi-digit multiplication and division, fractions, decimals, telling time, and counting money.

There are also 5 number sense and place value resources with daily and weekly practice sheets that may be used as a warm-up prior to each computation lesson. 

There are 2 fact fluency packets with timings, flashcards, and games and a packet of practice sheets teaching flat and solid shapes.


If you’d like a closer look at each of these resources, download the preview on each product page to see samples.

The previews also contain a lesson presentation outline and guide for prompting student responses during each part of the lesson, as well as tips on preparing and organizing materials. 

You can also download the free placement test at


As you contemplate whether these resources are a good fit for your students, know that they have helped students in a variety of settings including:

  • self-contained classrooms
  • small group interventions
  • general education classrooms
  • in homeschools and
  • summer tutoring programs

They’ve been used by teachers in all 50 United States at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels


students writing


Step-by-Step Math to Mastery resources have helped students with a variety of abilities.  I’ve received positive feedback from teachers of students with

  • learning disabilities,
  • attention difficulties,
  • students on the autism spectrum and those with
  • emotional and
  • intellectual disabilities. I’ve also heard success stories from teachers of
  • English language learners. 


I hope you will give these materials a chance to make a difference for you and your students. 

Thank you so much for spending the time to listen to this overview. 

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have and I would love to hear about your students’ progress.

You can reach me at

I look forward to hearing from you.


For more info on How to Use Step-by-Step Math to Mastery resources, check out this post answering frequently asked questions.

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