Interventions for Struggling Students in Secondary Mathematics


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Interventions for Struggling Students in Secondary Mathematics Tinashe Blanchet Professor Bedford EDCI 6905-476

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Background NCTM: “Mathematical literacy is essential for every child’s future. A solid mathematics education is essential for an informed public, our national security, a strong economy, and national well-being.” In a 2005 study of learning disabled high school algebra students, mathematics was cited as the least favorite subject by over half of the participants. (Kortering, deBettencourt and Braziel, p. 196) Lynn and Douglas Fuchs, U.S. eighth graders performed more than two years behind high-scoring countries in mathematics. (2001, p. 85)

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Thesis A survey of recent literature revealed that holistic problem solving, transmission of cognitive strategies, and differentiated instruction based on frequent assessment are the most effective interventions for students struggling in secondary mathematics courses.

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Problem Solving 2007: Maccini, Mulcahy and Wilson reviewed 23 quantitative studies of successful mathematics interventions, many of which pertained to teaching students mathematics in contextualized problem–solving scenarios rather than isolated computations. 2008: Tienken and Maher studied 284 eighth grade mathematics students and found that “drill and practice” computer assisted instruction had no positive effect on student mathematics post-test scores. The authors assert that the lack of problem-solving in the CAI is what may have caused it to be unsuccessful. (p. 12)

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Cognitive Strategies 2005, Butler, Beckingham and Lauscher presented 3 case studies documenting the processes by which these students were taught to self-regulate their learning in mathematics more effectively. (p. 172) 2006, qualitative study by Carter and Dean involving 14 instructors at a large mathematics clinic for 5th-11th graders demonstrated that teaching literacy strategies to help students organize mathematical information is regarded as an effective practice by some teachers. 2008, Montague conducted a review of the literature on “self-regulation strategies” which exposed a substantial amount of research that supports the transmission of self-regulatory cognitive strategies to struggling math learners as a successful intervention. (p.81 Cognitive strategies supported by research, such as vocabulary identification, graphic organizers, analysis of problems using cues or questions, are all connected to the idea of teaching students how to think, process and analyze mathematical information

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Differentiated Instruction/Assessment Ongoing cycle of differentiated instruction based on assessment results. 2008, Allsopp et. al. research “Mathematics Dynamic Assessment” (MDA) a model that helped teachers to identify specific areas of weakness for the students, and could be used as a guide for future instruction. (p. 14-15) 2008, Zimmerman and Dibenedetto observed a “blue ribbon” high school where frequent testing and remediation characterized effective secondary mathematics instruction. In a “mastery learning” context, students were given the assessment and remediation tools to guide their own learning. 2008, Anne Foegen concluded that algebra interventions for learning disabled students are most effective in an environment where student progress is frequently measured with formative assessments. She asserts that current research supports this progress monitoring as a promising solution for learning disabled students who struggle with algebra.

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Other Interventions Fouad conducted a study in which 118 eighth-graders participated in a “career linking” intervention program believed to have had a positive effect on the math scores of the students in the experimental group. (2001, p.533) Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck found that teaching students intelligence can be increased with effort, not bestowed at birth, a non-academic intervention, can have a positive on student attainment of learning goals. (2007, p.262) Judson conducted a qualitative survey of twenty schools, which revealed that although similar interventions were used in all the schools, the availability of resources and administrative support is what may have set the higher performing schools apart from the rest.

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Future Research An obvious gap in the research included in this review is math interventions for struggling regular-education students who have not been diagnosed with a learning disability. The bulk of recent studies reviewed apply to students with learning disabilities. Another area that requires more research is interventions for students in high school mathematics. Most of the studies available were for students in the middle grades. It seems that more information is needed to determine ways to help students struggling in mathematics in grades nine through twelve.

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Conclusion There is a significant body of research regarding interventions for students struggling in secondary mathematics. As previously mentioned, most of these studies involve students with learning disabilities. Therefore, this review is somewhat limited in its applicability to all struggling math students. Interventions including career linking, positive reinforcement and school-level planning have been supported by research and may hold promise. However, the vast majority of available recent research emphasizes problem solving, cognitive strategies, and assessment-informed differentiation as ways to help students who have difficulty in their secondary math classes.  

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Resources Allsopp, D., Kyger, M., Lovin, L., Gerretson, H., Carson, K., & Ray, S. (2008). Mathematics dynamic assessment: Informal assessment that responds to the needs of struggling learners in mathematics. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 40(3), 6-16 Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K., & Dweck, C. (2007, January). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246-263. Butler, D., Beckingham, B., & Lauscher, H. (2005, August). Promoting strategic learning by eighth-grade students struggling in mathematics: A report of three case studies. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 20(3), 156-174. Carter, T. & Dean, E. (2006). Mathematics intervention for grades 5-11: Teaching mathematics, reading, or both? Reading Psychology, 27, 127-146. Chan, L., & Moore, P. (2006, April). Development of attributional beliefs and strategic knowledge in years 5–9: A longitudinal analysis. Educational Psychology, 26(2), 161-185. Foegen, A. (2008, Spring2008). Algebra progress monitoring and interventions for students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 31(2), 65-78. Fouad, N. (1995, May). Career Linking: An intervention to promote math and science career awareness. Journal of Counseling & Development, 73(5), 527-534. Fuchs, L., & Fuchs, D. (2001, May). Principles for the prevention and intervention of mathematics difficulties. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 16(2), 85. Judson, E. (2007, Fall2007). Retaking a high stakes mathematics test. American Secondary Education, 36(1), 15-30. Kortering, L., deBettencourt, L., & Braziel, P. (2005, June 22). Improving performance in high school algebra: what students with learning disabilities are saying. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28(3), 191. Maccini, P., Mulcahy, C., & Wilson, M. (2007, February). A follow-up of mathematics interventions for secondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 22(1), 58-74. Montague, M. (2007, February 1). Self-Regulation and Mathematics Instruction. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 22(1), 75-83. Naglieri, J., & Gottling, S. (1997, September). Mathematics instruction and PASS cognitive processes: An intervention study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30(5), 513. Tienken, C., & Maher, J. (2008, January 1). The influence of computer-assisted instruction on eighth grade mathematics achievement. RMLE Online: Research in Middle Level Education, 32(3), 1-13. Zimmerman, B., & Dibenedetto, M. (2008, March). Mastery learning and assessment: Implications for students and teachers in an era of high-stakes testing. Psychology in the Schools, 45(3), 206-216.