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IES Grant

Title: An Efficacy Study of Interleaved Mathematics Practice
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Rohrer, Douglas Awardee: University of South Florida
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (8/1/2016-7/31/2020) Award Amount: $1,521,294
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A160263
Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: Robert Dedrick

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of a mathematics learning intervention known as interleaved practice. In this intervention, assignments include problems that draw upon concepts learned across multiple prior lessons and that are presented in a mixed-up order. The interleaved mathematics practice intervention was developed for middle school students through a prior grant (Interleaved Mathematics Practice). Typical mathematics assignments consist primarily of problems requiring the strategy introduced in the immediately preceding lesson (e.g., a dozen problems solved by using the Pythagorean Theorem). One of the key differences between interleaved and typical practice is that interleaved practice requires students to choose a strategy on the basis of the problem itself, as they must do when they encounter a problem during a comprehensive examination or subsequent course.

Project Activities: In Year 1, the research team will conduct a pilot study comparing interleaved practice to typical practice in seventh grade mathematics classrooms to ensure the intervention is being implemented with high fidelity and to evaluate the psychometric properties of researcher-developed measures. In Years 2 and 3, the research team will conduct a multisite cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing interleaved practice to typical practice in seventh grade mathematics classrooms. In Year 4, the research team will analyze data and disseminate the findings from the project.

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of the interleaved mathematics practice intervention for middle school students and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating middle schools will be located in an urban area of Florida.

Sample: In Year 1, approximately 120 seventh-grade students and 12–18 mathematics teachers will participate in the pilot study. In Years 2 and 3, approximately 1600 seventh-grade students and 30–40 mathematics teachers will participate in the RCT (800 per year). The schools from which the student sample is drawn enroll a diverse group of students and approximately equal numbers of male and female students.

Intervention: Interleaved mathematics practice includes a mixture of different kinds of mathematics problems that draw upon concepts learned across multiple prior lessons and that are presented in a mixed-up order. This intervention has the potential to be applied to many different mathematics content areas; however, for the purposes of this project, it will include grade seven mathematics practice aligned to the Common Core State Standards for mathematics in the domain of Statistics and Probability, the largest of the grade seven domains. The intervention will be implemented using student workbooks, which will include tutorials, worked examples, and assignments.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct a pilot study in Year 1 to evaluate the psychometric properties of the researcher-created measures and ensure high fidelity of implementation of the intervention. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to either interleaved practice or typical mathematics practice. Each student will receive a workbook consisting of tutorials, worked examples, and assignments. The assignments will differ based on the condition to which the student has been assigned. Students will receive 30 assignments, which will be assigned by the teacher and completed in class during the Statistics and Probability unit. Next, all students will receive the same review assignment within a week of completing the final workbook assignment. Students will be given a test on the Statistics and Probability unit one month after completing the review assignment. In Years 2 and 3, the research team will conduct a multisite cluster RCT. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the interleaved practice or the control condition. The procedure is the same as the pilot study procedure.

Control Condition: The control condition is typical mathematics practice, which consists of practice problems requiring the strategy introduced in the immediately preceding lesson (e.g., a dozen problems that are solved by using the Pythagorean Theorem). For this project, researchers will embed typical mathematics assignments in student workbooks for the seventh grade Statistics and Probability unit.

Key Measures: The primary measure in this study is students' performance on an end-of-unit test, which consists of items aligned to the learning materials. The research team will also collect students' scores on the mathematics section of the Florida Standards Assessment as a measure of prior mathematics achievement. The research team will collect fidelity of implementation data through classroom observations and teacher and student feedback through questionnaires and interviews.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze the data using a two-level model, with students nested within classrooms and schools as a fixed effect. Prior achievement in mathematics (at the class-level) will be used as a covariate.

Related Grants: Interleaved Mathematics Practice (R305A110517)
Harnessing Retrieval Practice to Enhance Learning in Diverse Domains (R305B070537)
Optimizing Resistance to Forgetting (R305H040108)
Optimizing Resistance to Forgetting (R305H020061)


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