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Enhancing Students with Math Difficulties Transition from Arithmetic to Algebra

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Jessica Namkung

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Office of Research and Economic Development—Layman Award

Award Date: May 1, 2017

End Date: Dec 31, 2018


Students struggling to learn math typically show the most severe and persistent underachievement in algebra compared to their peers.

Pre-algebra competence among middle school students is crucial to establishing conceptual foundations for formal algebra, mathematics research. However, evidence-based, pre-algebra interventions for students with math-learning difficulties are scarce.

This study will refine, test and finalize a pre-algebra intervention for struggling middle school students. The 10-week process uses explicit instruction and physical objects to bridge the conceptual and procedural understanding of solving linear equations.

The three-phase project begins with six middle school mathematics teachers, who will be recruited to review the overall process and provide feedback. Revisions will be made based on their feedback.

Phase two will explore feasibility and finalization. The process will be tested on five seventh-graders who struggle with learning math and are below the 25th percentile of testing scores. The process will then be further adjusted using students’ responsiveness to the intervention.

In the final phase, pilot testing will begin using a small-scale randomized controlled trial. A total of 30 seventh-graders with mathematics difficulties will be recruited and randomly assigned to either a treatment group — in which students receive the intervention three times a week, 30 minutes a day, for 10 weeks — or a control group.

The expected outcome is that the intervention group will show significantly higher improvement scores and larger effect sizes on pre-algebra outcome measures than students in the control group.

Academic Intervention & Learning, Early Education & Development

Jessica Namkung, assistant professor of special education and communication disorders
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