The study comprises students from 12 third-grade classrooms in two Southwest U.S. school districts. Tutoring in the intervention groups was delivered in small groups as a supplement to school-wide instruction in mathematics. Data were collected during the 2009–2010 academic year for the first cohort and the 2010–2011 academic year for the second cohort.
The authors provide the following sample characteristics for the 91 students screened for MD in the study: 2 percent were Asian, 29 percent were white, 1 percent were mixed race, 68 percent were an unspecified race (listed as Hispanic but race identification unspecified), 51 percent were male, 49 percent were female, and 29 percent were English Language Learners. The authors do not provide sample characteristics for just the MD students or by assignment condition.
For this review, the intervention group is the complete intervention condition. In each group, intervention instruction focused on generative strategies and working memory capacity to improve students’ word problem solving accuracy as a supplement to the students’ school-wide instruction in math. Intervention students received this instruction in small groups of two to four students during a 30-minute period twice a week for 10 weeks covering 20 total lessons. Lessons were delivered by trained tutors.
Every student in the three intervention conditions received a booklet containing the 20 lessons. Each lesson contained five word problems, which were modified from the classroom text, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill’s Mathematics (Altier et al., 2009). Tutors followed a script in the presentation of the word problems across four lesson phases: warm-up, modeling (one problem), guided practice (one problem), and independent practice (three problems). In each phase, tutors focused on problem translation by directing students to paraphrase (via writing) propositions of each word problem. The Complete condition directed students to restate the question as well as relevant and irrelevant propositions. Students in all conditions were ultimately tasked to solve each presented word problem.
For this review, the comparison condition was students with math difficulties in the control group. Students received their business as usual instruction from their classroom teacher, using the Macmillan/McGraw-Hill’s Mathematics: Concepts, Skills, and Problem Solving–Third Grade (the intervention group also received this curriculum during their usual instruction). Comparison students were also exposed to small group work related to word-problems but only participated in the first phase of the small group work, which consisted of working on math problems that required them to find missing values. As with the intervention condition, this occurred for 10-weeks, twice a week.
Support for implementation
Tutors received scripted lessons and student booklets. Each tutor practiced delivering lessons to other tutors to receive feedback on implementation fidelity. Additional support was provided to those who fell below 80 percent on a implementation fidelity rubric.