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IES Grant

Title: Age-related Changes in Word Problem Solving and Working Memory
Center: NCER Year: 2002
Principal Investigator: Swanson, H. Lee Awardee: University of California, Riverside
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $709,398
Goal: Exploration Award Number: R305H020055
Description:

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to examine the cognitive processes through which working memory (WM) affects word problem solving accuracy in the elementary grades. In addition, the investigators will examine whether children at risk for mathematical difficulties in grade 1 have less working memory and greater difficulty solving word problems compared to average achievers of comparable age over time. Considerable research shows that people’s ability to solve word problems depends largely on their working memory, but few studies explore the specific ways in which working memory affects word problem solving. Additionally, the diagnosis of children at risk for learning disabilities has become epidemic in the last few years, and few cognitive studies have examined problem solving by this population. The researchers will isolate deficient cognitive mechanisms through which working memory affects word problem solving in children at risk and not at risk for math disabilities. The researchers will also determine if these connections become more attenuated in older grades.

Project Activities: The researchers will administer a battery of cognitive and achievement tests each year over a three-year period. Because working memory and word problem solving performance are age related, the researchers will test the same children (both at risk of math difficulties and not at risk, beginning the study in grades 1, 2, or 3) in at least three testing waves to document developmental changes in performance. These testing waves will be one year apart. Researchers will compare age groups in a cross-sectional manner and explain how processes account for within person change in cognitive functioning over time.

Products: The researchers will suggest interventions that promote mathematical skills by enhancing the cognitive processes through which working memory affects word problem solving. The research team will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

STRUCTURED ABSTRACT

Setting: Public and private elementary schools in California.

Sample: Approximately 300 students in grades 1-3 will participate in this research.

Intervention: Due to the exploratory nature of this project, there is no intervention.

Research Design and Methods: For the first year of the project, a minimum of 50 children at risk and 50 children not at risk for math disabilities will be tested on a battery of cognitive measures related to WM and problem solving in grades 1, and a minimum of 20 children at risk and 20 not at risk each from grades 2 and 3 (total N = 180). These measures include those assessing word problem solving, phonological processes, visual-spatial working memory, intelligence, and math skills. For the second year of the project, those participants who were in grade 1 or 2 in the previous year will be retested in the spring. New participants to the project in year two will be selected from grade 1 (approximately 20 at risk and 20 not at risk). For the third year of the project, participants who were in grade 1 to 4 of the previous year will be retested in the spring.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Researchers will collect data on measures of cognitive processes, including word problem solving, phonological processes, working memory, and semantic and lexical processing.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use correlations and factor analysis among memory measures, and correlations between math, reading, and cognitive processing measures. They will also use hierarchical regression analysis for cognitive variables and math calculation skill predicting word problem solving.

Related IES Projects: Strategy Training, Problem Solving, and Working Memory in Children with Math Disabilities (R324A090002)

Publications

Book chapter

Swanson, H.L. (2005). Working Memory, Intelligence and Learning Disabilities. In O. Wilhelm and R.W. Engle (Eds.), Handbook of Understanding and Measuring Intelligence (pp. 409–429). New York: Sage Publications, Inc.

Swanson, H.L. (2006). Working Memory and Dynamic Testing of Children With Learning Disabilities. In S. Pickering (Ed.), Working Memory and Education (pp. 125156). San Diego: Academic Press.

Swanson, H.L., and Jerman, O. (2006). Math Disabilities: A Preliminary Meta-Analysis of the Published Literature on Cognitive Processes. In T. Scruggs and M. Mastropieri (Eds.), Applications of Research Methodology, Volume 1 Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities (pp. 285–314). Bristol, UK: Elsevier Ltd.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Rennie, B., Beebe-Frankenberger, M., and Swanson, H.L. (2014). A Longitudinal Study of Neuropsychological Functioning and Academic Achievement in Children With and Without Signs of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 36(6): 621–635

Swanson, H.L. (2008). Working Memory and Intelligence in Children: What Develops?. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3): 581–602.

Swanson, H.L. (2004). Working Memory and Phonological Processing as Predictors of Children's Mathematical Problem Solving at Different Ages. Memory and Cognition, 32: 648–666.

Swanson, H.L. (2006). Cognitive Processes That Underlie Mathematical Precociousness in Young Children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 93(3): 239–264.

Swanson, H.L. (2006). Cross-Sectional and Incremental Changes in Working Memory and Mathematical Problem Solving. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(2): 265–281.

Swanson, H.L. (2010). Does the Dynamic Testing of Working Memory Predict Growth in Nonword Fluency and Vocabulary in Children With Reading Disabilities?. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 9(2): 139–165.

Swanson, H.L. (2011). Dynamic Testing, Working Memory, and Reading Comprehension Growth in Children With Reading Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(4): 358–371.

Swanson, H.L. (2011). Intellectual Growth in Children as a Function of Domain Specific and Domain General Working Memory Subgroups. Intelligence, 39(6): 481–492.

Swanson, H.L. (2011). Working Memory, Attention, and Mathematical Problem Solving: A Longitudinal Study of Elementary School Children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(4): 821–837.

Swanson, H.L., and Beebe-Frankenberger, M. (2004). The Relationship Between Working Memory and Mathematical Problem Solving in Children at Risk and not at Risk for Serious Math Difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(3): 471–491.

Swanson, H.L., and Jerman, O. (2006). Math Disabilities: A Selective Meta-Analysis of the Literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2): 249–274.

Swanson, H.L., and Jerman, O. (2006). Reading Disabilities in Adults: A Selective Meta-Analysis of the Literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2): 249–274.

Swanson, H.L., and Jerman, O. (2007). The Influence of Working Memory on Reading Growth in Subgroups of Children With Reading Disabilities. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 96(4): 249–283.

Swanson, H.L., Howard, C.B., and Saez, L. (2006). Do Different Components of Working Memory Underlie Different Subgroups of Reading Disabilities?. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(3): 252–269.

Swanson, H.L., Jerman, O., and Zheng, X. (2008). Growth in Working Memory and Mathematical Problem Solving in Children at Risk and not at Risk for Serious Math Difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(2): 343–379.

Swanson, H.L., Jerman, O., and Zheng, X. (2009). Math Disabilities and Reading Disabilities: Can They be Separated?. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 27(3): 175–196.

Swanson, H.L., Kehler, P., and Jerman, O. (2010). Working Memory, Strategy Knowledge, and Strategy Instruction in Children With Reading Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43(1): 24–47.

Swanson, H.L., Zheng, X., and Jerman, O. (2009). Working Memory, Short-Term Memory, and Reading Disabilities: A Selective Meta-Analysis of the Literature. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(3): 260–287.

Swanson, H.L., Zheng, X., and Jerman, O. (2009). Declarative and Procedural Memory in Danish Speaking Children With Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(3): 260–287.

Zheng, X., Swanson, H.L, and Marcoulides, G.A. (2011). Working Memory Components as Predictors of Children's Mathematical Word Problem Solving. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110(4): 481–498.


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