Fuchs Tutoring

Pirate Math

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Grade Levels Group Size Tutor Type Qualifying Studies Average Effect Size
1-31-3Teaching Asst.1+0.37

Contact Info


Groups Studied
Asian American
English Learners
Free and Reduced Lunch

Communities Studied

Program Description

Pirate Math is a systematic structured tutoring model for building number knowledge, arithmetic skill, and word-problem solving. With the Pirate Math word-problem solving instruction at grades 1-3, students learn to identify the underlying conceptual frameworks of three common types of word problems; total, difference and change. For total word problems, 2 or more parts are combined to form a total. For difference word problems, 2 quantities are compared. For change word problems, an event occurs to increase or decrease a starting amount. Tutors teach the mathematical structure of each problem type. Additionally, with Pirate Math instruction, students learn to identify and ignore irrelevant information, to set up the number sentence that corresponds to each word-problem type, to solve for the missing value in number sentences, and to evaluate the reasonableness of solutions.



Tutors are usually hired by school districts. Tutors may be full-time or may work part of the school day. Tutors usually tutor in person, but may also work remotely when in-person tutoring is not possible.


Pirate Math is designed for students in grades 1-3 with learning difficulties that place them at-risk for poor mathematics outcomes.


Pirate Math programs do not require any technology to implement.


The Pirate Math programs include a coil-bound teacher manual with 48 lessons and a supplemental materials packet. The teacher manual includes lesson guides, activity guides, and implementation directions. The supplemental materials packet includes templates for posters, game boards and cards, and fidelity sheets.  

Program Operation

Pirate Math is a form of schema instruction designed to help students understand word problems and to efficiently use counting strategies when finding the missing number in a number sentence. Pirate Math programs include 48 scripted lessons and a Supplemental Materials Packet. Lessons target math word problems, math language, number concepts and math reasoning, and arithmetic concepts and operations. Tutoring sessions run 16 weeks with 3 sessions a week for 30 minutes. Each session has 3 segments which include guided practice on arithmetic counting strategies; the lesson, which is a review of number and word-problem concepts and strategies; and independent practice.  A built-in self-regulation system fosters perseverance and motivation.

Professional Development, Progress Monitoring, and Follow-up

Fuchs Tutoring offers professional development support for school and district personnel to take on the role of (1) Pirate Math tutors and (2) Pirate Math coaches.

Tutors implement the program directly with students. Coaches are matched with approximately 10 tutors each, and they support tutors through weekly observations with feedback and monthly group tutor meetings. For both roles, candidates complete a certification process and receive ongoing support from Fuchs Tutoring staff.


Certification ProcessCollege degree; tutor experience preferred. Participation in 2-day Training Institute (offered twice-annually, location and format TBD). Brief assessment and/or performance task.  Submission of tutoring practice video for review, initially and on an annual basis thereafter to retain certification. College or advanced degree; demonstrated prior experience as math specialist or coach.   Participation in 3-day Training Institute (tutor training plus an additional day for coach training; offered twice annually, location and format TBD). Completion of tutor certification process (assessment and tutoring practice video review). Coach competency task assessment. Quarterly coach review process with Fuchs Tutoring Staff.
Ongoing Support from Fuchs TutoringMatch with certified coach, if needed. Monthly booster training webinars. Access to Pirate Math tutor online community of practice.Monthly facilitated group coach meetings. Monthly booster training webinars. Access to Pirate Math tutor online community of practice.

For more information on professional development opportunities and costs, contact FuchsTutoring@air.org. For information on programs material costs, contact lynn.a.davies@vanderbilt.edu.

Research on Program Outcomes

Multiple randomized controlled trials have been conducted on Pirate Math and published in peer-review journals. In the randomized controlled trial qualifying for this website, Fuchs et al. (2010) randomly assigned 150 third graders with low math achievement at the start of the school year to three conditions: a control group and two versions of the Pirate Math program. The condition adopted for dissemination produced an effect size of +0.37 on the outcomes qualifying for this website.

Key Studies

  • Fuchs, L.S., Powell, S.R., Seethaler, P.M., Cirino, P.T., Fletcher, J.M., Fuchs, D., & Hamlett, C.L. (2010). The effects of strategic counting instruction, with and without deliberate practice, on number combination skill among students with mathematics difficulties. Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 89-100.
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