WWC review of this study

Generative Strategies, Working Memory, and Word Problem Solving Accuracy in Children at Risk for Math Disabilities [Word problem instruction - complete condition vs. word problem instruction - restate condition]

Swanson, H. Lee; Moran, Amber S.; Bocian, Kathleen; Lussier, Cathy; Zheng, Xinhua (2013). Learning Disability Quarterly, v36 n4 p203-214. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1019728

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: February 2020

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Whole Numbers Word Problems/Problem Solving outcomes—Substantively important negative effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Word Problem Accuracy (Swanson et al. 2013)

Targeted Math Intervention vs. (Not applicable)

0 Days

Restate intervention group vs. Complete intervention group contrast;
36 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 29% English language learners

  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%
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  • Race
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  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    


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.

Study sample

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.

Intervention Group

For this review, the intervention group is the restate intervention condition. 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 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 restate condition targeted the recall of two propositions of each word problem: the question and the goal. Students had to restate these components of each problem. Students were ultimately tasked to solve each presented word problem.

Comparison Group

For this review, the comparison condition is the complete intervention group. The structure and timing of the intervention was the same as the restate intervention group. The only difference between the interventions was that for the complete intervention, the sessions focused on directing students to restate the question as well as relevant and irrelevant propositions (rather than just restating the question and the goal of the question, as the restate condition did).

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.


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