Materials Review: KeyMath-3

An assessment and intervention program I’ve been using for a while now is the KeyMath-3. It’s a pretty strong tool, especially the KeyMath-3 Diagnostic Assessment.

The KeyMath DA is a large test – as in there are a lot of items. This is also it’s greatest strength. It includes so many items because it tests a lot of discrete math skills. The best thing about the KeyMath DA is that one of its reporting options is a “Functional Item Analysis”. What it does is analyze the items a student got correct or incorrect, and for the incorrect items produces a report that lists the discrete skill the item(s) assessed and then the KeyMath ER lesson that teaches that skill. This makes programming a snap because you essentially get a list of the skills/units a student needs to progress through. This is how I use the assessment for students well-below grade level who need an alternative curriculum. For students in the general education classroom it allows me to provide the teacher with a list of remedial topics a student needs.

The test, and the intervention program, are organized based on the NCTM mathematics standards. Numeration, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis are grouped into Basic Concepts on the DA. Operations consists of the tests Addition and Subtraction, Multiplication and Division, and Mental Computation and Estimation. Finally, Problem Solving is measured two subtests; Foundations of Problem Solving and Applied Problems. Lessons in the ER are likewise grouped under each of the ten strands. Some students present with clear deficits in one the three domains – especially Operations – and then it is easy to suggest accommodations or curriculum modifications. More often, students’ standard scores in each area are in the average range, but there are clear weaknesses in one or more of the narrow strands. As a result, the KeyMath DA hasn’t served me well when gathering adverse effect evidence, but this hardly outweighs its usefulness for programming and designing instruction.

The KeyMath ER is clearly intended to be used as a Tier 2 intervention program; a brief supplement to regular classroom instruction. The materials consist of two flipbook lesson displays and a CD with practice worksheets and assessments. Many of the lessons require materials that would be present in most elementary math classrooms; colored cubes, base-10 blocks, etc. If you’re looking at the KeyMath ER as a core math curriculum, look elsewhere. It will not meet your needs, and it wasn’t designed to. Combined with the KeyMath DA, it can provide a lot of direction for planning. This is primarily how I use the materials because I am not a trained math teacher. I use the DA to find out what skills a student needs to practice, and then consult the ER to learn strategies for instruction in that area. It’s my jumping off point, not the beginning and end of my math instruction.

The KeyMath program and assessment are the only research-based math materials I have made extensive use of, but based on my experience I can recommend them. If you are providing the Tier 2 services that these materials were designed for I would especially make the recommendation. In the Diagnostic Assessment and Essential Resources, the creators of KeyMath have developed a beautifully aligned set of tools for educators.

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