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IES Grant

Title: Solve It!—Grades 5–6: Improving Math Problem Solving for Students with Learning
Center: NCSER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Krawec, Jennifer Awardee: University of Miami
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3/1/11–2/28/14 Award Amount: $1,616,879.00
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A110009

Purpose: Students with disabilities perform significantly lower in mathematics than their non-disabled peers. Math problem solving is particularly challenging for students with disabilities as instruction generally does not provide the kind of modeling and skill building necessary to become an efficient math problem solver. The purpose of this project is to modify Solve It!, a mathematics problem-solving intervention for students with learning disabilities. Solve It! intends to teach students how to think and behave like successful problem solvers by developing strategies used by effective problem solvers. The researchers will adapt the current Solve It! intervention (currently targeted for middle school students) for use in upper elementary classrooms (Grades 5 and 6).

Project Activities: The researchers will adapt the Solve It! problem-solving intervention for students with learning disabilities in Grades 5 and 6. The researchers will use multiple-baseline design studies to collect student outcome data to further revise and refine the intervention. Data will be collected using curriculum-based measures as well as treatment fidelity and social validity measures. The researchers will investigate the promise of the intervention for improving math problem solving for students with learning disabilities by collecting math problem solving data on the various outcome measures outlined below. The researchers will also collect data from general education math teachers and special education teachers on the feasibility and usability of Solve It! as measured by a social validity measure.

Products: The products of this project include the fully developed Solve It! intervention for 5th and 6th grade students with disabilities in addition to project publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in a large urban school district in Florida.

Population: The participants in the study will be approximately 100 5th and 6th grade students with disabilities and their teachers in a large urban school district.

Intervention: Solve It! is based on "explicit instruction" characterized by structured lessons, appropriate cues and prompts, guided and distributed practice, immediate feedback, positive reinforcement, overlearning, and mastery. Solve It! embeds other research-based instructional strategies such as active student participation, verbal rehearsal, and cognitive modeling. Cognitive processes include reading the problem, paraphrasing, visualizing (forming internal representations), hypothesizing about solutions, estimating the outcome or answer, computing the outcome or answer, and checking. Metacognitive strategies include self-instruction, self-questioning, and self-monitoring. The duration of the Solve It! intervention, including pretests and progress checks, is about 15 days, which is consistent with the intent of the program to supplement the standard curriculum.

Research Design and Methods: Research and development tasks will be accomplished through an iterative process. Initial modifications and adaptations to Solve It! will be completed, piloted with groups of 3 to 4 students, and field tested in full classrooms. Based on student outcome data and social validity data, Solve It! will be revised and refined. Treatment fidelity data for the mini-lessons will also be collected. The curriculum-based measures will be field tested and revised. Social validity measures will be developed and field tested across the project years with both general math and special education teachers. The final iteration of the social validity measure will be administered to teachers and administrators to gain further insight into the feasibility and usability of Solve It!—Grades 5–6.

Control Group: There is no control group.

Key Measures: Curriculum-based measures will be used to monitor progress during the series of single-case design studies conducted across the study. Summative assessment measures will also be used, including the Test of Mathematical Abilities-2, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (math), Math Problem Solving Assessment, Math Problem Solving Self-Efficacy Scale, and Math Class Grade Confidence Scale. Measures also include two researcher-developed measures for Solve It! that target fidelity of implementation and social validity.

Data Analytic Strategy: A series of multiple-baseline across-participants design studies will be conducted in Years 2 and 3 of the study to examine the potential of Solve It! to improve math problem solving. Criteria for acceptable performance will be established to indicate improvement on outcome measures. Visual analysis of the data will be ongoing to determine effects of treatment across the various phases. Quantitative analyses will also be conducted as appropriate using regression-based methods. Additionally, multi-level models will be used to compute effect size across studies.

Products and Publications


Krawec, J., and Warger, C. (2015). Solve It! Teaching Mathematical Problem Solving in Inclusive Classrooms: Grades 5–6. Exceptional Innovations. Retrieved from–6/.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Gonsalves, N., and Krawec, J. (2014). Using Number Lines to Solve Math Word Problems: A Strategy for Students With Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 29: 160–170. doi:10.1111/12042

Krawec, J., and Huang, J. (2016). Modifying a Research-Based Problem-Solving Intervention to Improve the Problem-Solving Performance of Fifth and Sixth Graders with and without Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50(4): 468–480. doi:10.1177/0022219416645565 Full text