WWC review of this study

Alternative Paths to Improved Word-Problem Performance: An Advantage for Embedding Prealgebraic Reasoning Instruction within Word-Problem Intervention

Powell, Sarah R.; Berry, Katherine A.; Fall, Anna-Maria; Roberts, Greg; Fuchs, Lynn S.; Barnes, Marcia A. (2021). Journal of Educational Psychology, v113 n5 p898-910 . Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1303844

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    170
     Students
    , grade
    3

Reviewed: September 2023

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Whole Numbers Computation outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Equal Sign Tasks

Pirate Math Equation Quest (PMEQ) vs. Pirate Math (PM)

6 Days

Full sample;
170 students

10.23

7.16

No

--

Open Equations

Pirate Math Equation Quest (PMEQ) vs. Pirate Math (PM)

6 Days

Full sample;
170 students

11.18

12.13

No

--
Whole Numbers Word Problems/Problem Solving outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Texas Word Problems

Pirate Math Equation Quest (PMEQ) vs. Pirate Math (PM)

6 Days

Full sample;
170 students

26.84

25.30

No

--


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.


  • Female: 55%
    Male: 46%

  • Urban
  • Race
    Asian
    3%
    Black
    12%
    Other or unknown
    73%
    Two or more races
    7%
    White
    5%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    68%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    32%
  • Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch
    Other or unknown    
    100%

Setting

The study took place in grade 3 general education classrooms located in public schools in a large urban school district in the Southwestern United States.

Study sample

Across two school years, the researchers randomly assigned 105 grade 3 students to the Pirate Math Equation Quest (PMEQ) condition, 84 students to the Pirate Math alone (PM-alone) condition, and 115 students to the business-as-usual condition. In year one, students were taught by 37 teachers in 13 schools. In year two, students were taught by 33 teachers in 13 schools. Students who were identified as having mathematics difficulty were eligible to participate in the study. This review assesses the contrast between students in the PMEQ and PM-alone conditions. A total of 170 students in grade 3 were included in this analysis. Approximately 55% of the students were female, 61% were dual-language learners, and 14% were special education students. Twelve percent were African American, 7% were multiracial, 5% were White, 3% were Asian, and the rest had unknown race. Sixty-eight percent were Hispanic.

Intervention Group

PMEQ is a word-problem solving intervention designed to help students who are struggling with equations and word problems. PMEQ took place three times per week for 30 minutes a session, for a total of 45 sessions. The interventionists worked with students individually in a quiet place outside of the classroom, such as the school library, a conference room, or an extra classroom. PMEQ students participated in five activities during each session: (a) Math Fact Flashcards, (b) Equation Quest, (c) Buccaneer Problems, (d) Shipshape Sorting, and (e) Jolly Roger Review. Note that the only difference between the PMEQ condition and the comparison condition (PM-alone) is one activity: PMEQ students participated in Equation Quest where they deepened their understanding of the equal sign and learned to balance equations with a variable, while PM-alone students participated in Pirate Crunch where they completed a review of mathematical concepts.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison group received Pirate Math without Equation Quest (PM-alone). PM-alone took place three times per week for 30 minutes a session, for a total of 45 sessions. Interventionists worked with students individually in a quiet place outside of the classroom. Students participated in five activities for each session: (a) Math Fact Flashcards, (b) Pirate Crunch, (c) Buccaneer Problems, (d) Shipshape Sorting, and (e) Jolly Roger Review. Except for Pirate Crunch, all other activities were the same as the PMEQ condition. Pirate Crunch activities addressed time, money, geometry, perimeter, area, place value, and fractions through paper-based tasks and did not address concepts related to the equal sign or word problems.

Support for implementation

In each year, interventionists participated in four, 1.5-hr tutoring trainings about the content of the intervention and the three types of additive word problem schemas: Total, Difference, and Change problems.

 

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