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IES Grant

Title: Advancing the Math Skills of Low-Achieving Adolescents in Technology-Rich Learning Environments
Center: NCER Year: 2004
Principal Investigator: Bottge, Brian Awardee: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,050,000
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305H040032
Description:

U.S. students consistently score lower than students in many other industrialized nations on international tests of mathematics, and many students score below basic levels on national assessments. Research suggests that improving the skills of students with learning disabilities (LD) or emotional disabilities (ED) is especially difficult. Studies showing that students with LD gain, on average, only one year of achievement in math for every two years they are in school indicate that considerable effort is needed to upgrade their basic math and problem solving skills. The purpose of this project is to implement, test, and refine the most effective way to teach both problem-solving and basic skills to low-achieving adolescents using a teaching method called Enhanced Anchored Instruction (EAI).

EAI uses a mix of video-based problems delivered on CD-ROM (called anchors) and hands on projects (e.g., building skateboard ramps, compost bins, or hovercrafts). Each anchored problem consists of several sub-problems embedded in a realistic and motivating context. Anchored problems require considerable time to solve, usually five to ten 60-minute class periods. Students must first define and understand the EAI problem, locate the relevant pieces of information for solving it, and then integrate this information into a solution that makes sense. In previous work, students have been found to identify with the video's main characters and to work hard on helping them solve their problem. The additional practice the applied projects afford students appears to help them understand the importance and benefits of learning math.

The current study builds on the researchers' past work by examining the relative effectiveness of EAI for improving students' mathematics achievement in two conditions. In the first condition, basic skills such as computation of whole numbers and fractions are explicitly taught before and during EAI as planned units of instruction. In the second condition, these same skills are taught informally as they are needed in student efforts to solve the mathematical problems presented during EAI. The researchers are carrying out this study with classrooms of students including both average achieving students and low achieving students, many of whom are likely to have LD or ED disability classifications.

The participating middle and high schools serve diverse ethnic and socioeconomic student populations. In the study, thirty classrooms of students are being randomly assigned to receive EAI with either explicit or informal teaching of basic skills. The researchers are testing students' mathematical achievement before and after the instruction to measure how much they learn from the EAI instruction, and attitude surveys and classroom observations are being used to study the student learning process as students attempt to solve complex problems. Using this information, the research is refining EAI to make it a more effective instructional approach for low-achieving students. The results of this project should provide new information on how best to integrate instruction of higher and lower order math skills in ways that facilitate the mastery of basic skills while at the same time motivating students to learn mathematics by providing engaging problem-solving opportunities with real-world applications.

Project Website: http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/team

Related IES Projects: Evaluating the Efficacy of Enhanced Anchored Instruction for Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities in Math (R324A090179)

Publications from this project:

Bottge, B.A., Rueda, E., Grant, T.S., Stephens, A.C., and LaRoque, P.T. (2010). Anchoring Problem-Solving and Computation Instruction in Context-Rich Learning Environments. Exceptional Children, 76 (4): 417–437.

Bottge, B.A., Rueda, E., Kwon, J.M., Grant, T., and LaRoque, P. (2009). Assessing and Tracking Students' Problem Solving Performances in Anchored Learning Environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57 (4): 529–552.

Bottge, B.A., Grant, T.S., Rueda, E., and Stephens, A.C. (2010). Advancing the Math Skills of Middle School Students in Technology Education Classrooms. NASSP Bulletin, 94, 81–106.

Cho, S.J., Cohen, A.S., Kim, S.H., and Bottge, B. (2010). Latent Transition Analysis with a Mixture Item Response Theory Measurement Model. Applied Psychological Measurement, 34, 483–504.

Cho, S.J., Bottge, B.A., Cohen, A.S., and Kim, S.H. (2011). Detecting Cognitive Change in the Math Skills of Low-Achieving Adolescents. Journal of Special Education, 45 (2): 67–76.

Stephens, A.C., Bottge, B.A., and Rueda, E. (2009). Ramping Up On Fractions. Mathematics Teaching In The Middle School, 14 (6): 520–526.


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