Contributed by:

This Evidence for Education is about helping students stay on track in math, building concepts upon the concept in a steady progression of skills. This is as much a national priority as it is a practical necessity for the students themselves because daily life involves math—from the check-out counter at the school store to the express line in the grocery, from our most routine jobs to the high-paying, high-profile ones in engineering, technology, and science (Lee, Grigg, & Dion, 2007; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2005). So—two questions naturally arise. What do students need to know how to do, mathematically? And what instructional approaches are effective in teaching those skills?

This Evidence for Education addresses these questions, and one more: What do we do when disability affects a student’s ability to learn math skills? That’s the reality for literally millions of students in our schools; certain disabilities do add to the challenge of learning an already challenging subject. Therefore, what the research has to say about effective math instruction for students with disabilities is a vital tool in the hands of school personnel responsible for designing and delivering math programming. This publication offers just such research-based tools and guidance to teachers, administrators, and families.

This Evidence for Education addresses these questions, and one more: What do we do when disability affects a student’s ability to learn math skills? That’s the reality for literally millions of students in our schools; certain disabilities do add to the challenge of learning an already challenging subject. Therefore, what the research has to say about effective math instruction for students with disabilities is a vital tool in the hands of school personnel responsible for designing and delivering math programming. This publication offers just such research-based tools and guidance to teachers, administrators, and families.

1.
nichcy.org http://nichcy.org/research/ee/math

Effective Mathematics Instruction

by Kathlyn Steedly, Ph.D., Kyrie Dragoo, M.Ed., Sousan Arefeh, Ph.D., &

Stephen D. Luke, Ed.D.

Evidence for Education • Volume III • Issue I • 2008

Links updated, December 2011

Table of Contents

What Students Need to Know and We Need To Teach

How Disabilities Can Affect Math Achievement

Effective Math Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties

Choosing and Using Effective Math Intervention Strategies

“Can you do addition?” the White Queen asked. “What’s one and one

and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?”

“I don’t know,” said Alice. “I lost count.”

—Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass

We start this Evidence for Education with an odd, little quote that illustrates several things quickly about

math. It’s easy to get lost, especially if the question comes at you too fast, and once you get lost, well…

Well, we don’t want students to get lost in math. This Evidence for Education is about helping students stay

on track in math, building concept upon concept in a steady progression of skills. This is as much a national

priority as it is a practical necessity for the students themselves, because daily life involves math—from the

check-out counter at the school store to the express line in the grocery, from our most routine jobs to the

high-paying, high-profile ones in engineering, technology, and science (Lee, Grigg, & Dion, 2007; U.S.

Government Accountability Office, 2005).

So—two questions naturally arise. What do students need to know how to do, mathematically? And what

instructional approaches are effective in teaching those skills?

This Evidence for Education addresses these questions, and one more: What do we do when disability

affects a student’s ability to learn math skills? That’s the reality for literally millions of students in our schools;

certain disabilities do add to the challenge of learning an already challenging subject. Therefore, what the

research has to say about effective math instruction for students with disabilities is a vital tool in the hands of

school personnel responsible for designing and delivering math programming. This publication offers just

such research-based tools and guidance to teachers, administrators, and families.

Back to top

What Students Need to Know and We Need to Teach | The Work of

Expert Panels

Four advisory panels have been appointed since 1999 alone to advise the nation on how best to teach

mathematics: The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, National

Research Council, the RAND Mathematics Study Panel, and the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. The

reports emerging from each are detailed, often technical, but well worth reading, especially for those

involved in math education, because they capture what each expert panel concludes schools must teach and

students learn in math. What these reports make clear is that mathematics teaching and learning are

complex undertakings. The National Research Council, for example, refers to “mathematical proficiency” as

Effective Mathematics Instruction

by Kathlyn Steedly, Ph.D., Kyrie Dragoo, M.Ed., Sousan Arefeh, Ph.D., &

Stephen D. Luke, Ed.D.

Evidence for Education • Volume III • Issue I • 2008

Links updated, December 2011

Table of Contents

What Students Need to Know and We Need To Teach

How Disabilities Can Affect Math Achievement

Effective Math Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties

Choosing and Using Effective Math Intervention Strategies

“Can you do addition?” the White Queen asked. “What’s one and one

and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?”

“I don’t know,” said Alice. “I lost count.”

—Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass

We start this Evidence for Education with an odd, little quote that illustrates several things quickly about

math. It’s easy to get lost, especially if the question comes at you too fast, and once you get lost, well…

Well, we don’t want students to get lost in math. This Evidence for Education is about helping students stay

on track in math, building concept upon concept in a steady progression of skills. This is as much a national

priority as it is a practical necessity for the students themselves, because daily life involves math—from the

check-out counter at the school store to the express line in the grocery, from our most routine jobs to the

high-paying, high-profile ones in engineering, technology, and science (Lee, Grigg, & Dion, 2007; U.S.

Government Accountability Office, 2005).

So—two questions naturally arise. What do students need to know how to do, mathematically? And what

instructional approaches are effective in teaching those skills?

This Evidence for Education addresses these questions, and one more: What do we do when disability

affects a student’s ability to learn math skills? That’s the reality for literally millions of students in our schools;

certain disabilities do add to the challenge of learning an already challenging subject. Therefore, what the

research has to say about effective math instruction for students with disabilities is a vital tool in the hands of

school personnel responsible for designing and delivering math programming. This publication offers just

such research-based tools and guidance to teachers, administrators, and families.

Back to top

What Students Need to Know and We Need to Teach | The Work of

Expert Panels

Four advisory panels have been appointed since 1999 alone to advise the nation on how best to teach

mathematics: The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, National

Research Council, the RAND Mathematics Study Panel, and the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. The

reports emerging from each are detailed, often technical, but well worth reading, especially for those

involved in math education, because they capture what each expert panel concludes schools must teach and

students learn in math. What these reports make clear is that mathematics teaching and learning are

complex undertakings. The National Research Council, for example, refers to “mathematical proficiency” as

2.
five intertwined strands, described in the box on page 3 (Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findell, 2001). Learning each

of these strands is an ongoing process that builds on itself. As new concepts and skills are learned, new

terms and symbols must also be learned and older skills remembered and applied.

The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) speaks clearly to the need for math

curricula that fosters student success in algebra (and beyond) and experienced math teachers who use

researched-based instructional strategies. The report also stresses the “mutually reinforcing benefits of

conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic recall of facts” (National Mathematics Advisory

Panel, 2008, p. xiv). Math teachers know this already—and recognize the very real consequences of

students not achieving a level of mastery with foundational math concepts. Disability can further compromise

student learning (Spear-Swerling, 2005), especially if the disability affects recall of information and the

generalization of skills from one learning situation to another.

Which brings us to the next two parts in this Evidence for Education: How disabilities can affect math learning

and how to effectively address these special learning needs.

Mathematics Advisory Panels and Their Reports

National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century—Before It’s

Too Late

http://www2.ed.gov/inits/Math/glenn/toc.html

National Research Council—Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9822

RAND Mathematics Study Panel—Mathematical Proficiency for All Students

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1643/index.html

Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel

http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf

Back to top

How Disabilities Can Affect Math Achievement

Many different disabilities can affect children’s math learning and performance, but none more than

disabilities that affect cognition—mental retardation, traumatic brain injury, attention-deficit/hyperactivity

disorder, and learning disabilities, to name a few. Several specific areas of disability are clearly connected to

math learning difficulties. Visual processing, visual memory, and visual-spatial relationships all impact math

proficiency in that they are threads in the fabric of conceptual understanding and procedural fluency

(Kilpatrick et al., 2001). Specific math learning difficulties also can affect a student’s ability to formulate,

represent, and solve math problems (known as strategic competence).

The term learning disabilities (LD) certainly appears throughout the literature on math difficulties. This is not

especially surprising: LD is the most frequently referenced disability affecting math learning and

performance, with a well-documented impact on the learning of 5% to 10% of children in grades K-12 (Fuchs

& Fuchs, 2002; Garnett, 1998; Geary, 2001, 2004; Mazzocco & Thompson, 2005).

That’s more than 2.8 million children (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). While some of these children are

primarily affected in their ability to read or write, many others struggle predominantly in the math arena, a

manifestation of LD known as dyscalculia. This can be seen in the Federal definition of LD, which captures

well the variable impact of the disability:

Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in

understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability

to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations…. [34 C.F.R.§

The “imperfect ability to…do mathematical calculations” accurately describes how LD affects many students.

However, not all children with LD have math troubles, and not all children with math troubles have a learning

disability. The commonality of interest here, then, is trouble with math, not what disability a child may have.

of these strands is an ongoing process that builds on itself. As new concepts and skills are learned, new

terms and symbols must also be learned and older skills remembered and applied.

The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) speaks clearly to the need for math

curricula that fosters student success in algebra (and beyond) and experienced math teachers who use

researched-based instructional strategies. The report also stresses the “mutually reinforcing benefits of

conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic recall of facts” (National Mathematics Advisory

Panel, 2008, p. xiv). Math teachers know this already—and recognize the very real consequences of

students not achieving a level of mastery with foundational math concepts. Disability can further compromise

student learning (Spear-Swerling, 2005), especially if the disability affects recall of information and the

generalization of skills from one learning situation to another.

Which brings us to the next two parts in this Evidence for Education: How disabilities can affect math learning

and how to effectively address these special learning needs.

Mathematics Advisory Panels and Their Reports

National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century—Before It’s

Too Late

http://www2.ed.gov/inits/Math/glenn/toc.html

National Research Council—Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9822

RAND Mathematics Study Panel—Mathematical Proficiency for All Students

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1643/index.html

Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel

http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf

Back to top

How Disabilities Can Affect Math Achievement

Many different disabilities can affect children’s math learning and performance, but none more than

disabilities that affect cognition—mental retardation, traumatic brain injury, attention-deficit/hyperactivity

disorder, and learning disabilities, to name a few. Several specific areas of disability are clearly connected to

math learning difficulties. Visual processing, visual memory, and visual-spatial relationships all impact math

proficiency in that they are threads in the fabric of conceptual understanding and procedural fluency

(Kilpatrick et al., 2001). Specific math learning difficulties also can affect a student’s ability to formulate,

represent, and solve math problems (known as strategic competence).

The term learning disabilities (LD) certainly appears throughout the literature on math difficulties. This is not

especially surprising: LD is the most frequently referenced disability affecting math learning and

performance, with a well-documented impact on the learning of 5% to 10% of children in grades K-12 (Fuchs

& Fuchs, 2002; Garnett, 1998; Geary, 2001, 2004; Mazzocco & Thompson, 2005).

That’s more than 2.8 million children (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). While some of these children are

primarily affected in their ability to read or write, many others struggle predominantly in the math arena, a

manifestation of LD known as dyscalculia. This can be seen in the Federal definition of LD, which captures

well the variable impact of the disability:

Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in

understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability

to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations…. [34 C.F.R.§

The “imperfect ability to…do mathematical calculations” accurately describes how LD affects many students.

However, not all children with LD have math troubles, and not all children with math troubles have a learning

disability. The commonality of interest here, then, is trouble with math, not what disability a child may have.

3.
That’s one very good reason to look beyond labels and focus on what teachers can do, instructionally

speaking, to support students who are struggling in math. Which we’re going to do right now.

The National Research Council’s Concept of “Mathematical Proficiency”

“The integrated and balanced development of all five strands of mathematical proficiency [shown below] …

should guide the teaching and learning of school mathematics.”

Conceptual understanding— comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations, and relations

Procedural fluency—skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and appropriately

Strategic competence—ability to formulate, represent, and solve mathematical problems

Adaptive reasoning—a capacity for logical thought, reflection, explanation, and justification

Productive disposition— habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile,

coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy. (Kilpatrick, et al., 2001, p. 11)

Back to top

Effective Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties

in Math — Four Approaches That Improve Results

We know a great deal about effective math instruction for students with disabilities, especially students who

have LD. There have been five meta-analyses on the subject, reviewing a total of 183 research studies

(Adams & Carnine, 2003; Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002; Browder, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Harris, &

Wakeman, 2008; Kroesbergen & Van Luit, 2003; Xin & Jitendra, 1999). The studies combined in these meta-

analyses involved students with a variety of disabilities—most notably, LD, but other disabilities as well,

including mild mental retardation, AD/HD, behavioral disorders, and students with significant cognitive

disabilities. The meta-analyses found strong evidence of instructional approaches that appear to help

students with disabilities improve their math achievement. We now also have the National Mathematics

Advisory Panel Report (2008) that further investigates successful mathematical teaching strategies and

provides additional support for the research results.

According to these studies, four methods of instruction show the most promise. These are:

Systematic and explicit instruction, a detailed instructional approach in which teachers guide students

through a defined instructional sequence. Within systematic and explicit instruction students learn to

regularly apply strategies that effective learners use as a fundamental part of mastering concepts.

Self-instruction, through which students learn to manage their own learning with specific prompting or

solution-oriented questions.

Peer tutoring, an approach that involves pairing students together to learn or practice an academic

task.

Visual representation, which uses manipulatives, pictures, number lines, and graphs of functions and

relationships to teach mathematical concepts.

Of course, to make use of this information, an educator would need to know much more about each

approach. So let’s take a closer look.

Back to top

Explicit and Systematic Instruction

Explicit instruction, often called direct instruction, refers to an instructional practice that carefully constructs

interactions between students and their teacher. Teachers clearly state a teaching objective and follow a

defined instructional sequence. They assess how much students already know on the subject and tailor

subsequent instruction, based upon that initial evaluation of student skills. Students move through the

curriculum, both individually and in groups, repeatedly practicing skills at a pace determined by the teacher’s

understanding of student needs and progress (Swanson, 2001). Explicit instruction has been found to be

especially successful when a child has problems with a specific or isolated skill (Kroesbergen & Van Luit,

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) offers a helpful snapshot of an explicit instructional

speaking, to support students who are struggling in math. Which we’re going to do right now.

The National Research Council’s Concept of “Mathematical Proficiency”

“The integrated and balanced development of all five strands of mathematical proficiency [shown below] …

should guide the teaching and learning of school mathematics.”

Conceptual understanding— comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations, and relations

Procedural fluency—skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and appropriately

Strategic competence—ability to formulate, represent, and solve mathematical problems

Adaptive reasoning—a capacity for logical thought, reflection, explanation, and justification

Productive disposition— habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile,

coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy. (Kilpatrick, et al., 2001, p. 11)

Back to top

Effective Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties

in Math — Four Approaches That Improve Results

We know a great deal about effective math instruction for students with disabilities, especially students who

have LD. There have been five meta-analyses on the subject, reviewing a total of 183 research studies

(Adams & Carnine, 2003; Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002; Browder, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Harris, &

Wakeman, 2008; Kroesbergen & Van Luit, 2003; Xin & Jitendra, 1999). The studies combined in these meta-

analyses involved students with a variety of disabilities—most notably, LD, but other disabilities as well,

including mild mental retardation, AD/HD, behavioral disorders, and students with significant cognitive

disabilities. The meta-analyses found strong evidence of instructional approaches that appear to help

students with disabilities improve their math achievement. We now also have the National Mathematics

Advisory Panel Report (2008) that further investigates successful mathematical teaching strategies and

provides additional support for the research results.

According to these studies, four methods of instruction show the most promise. These are:

Systematic and explicit instruction, a detailed instructional approach in which teachers guide students

through a defined instructional sequence. Within systematic and explicit instruction students learn to

regularly apply strategies that effective learners use as a fundamental part of mastering concepts.

Self-instruction, through which students learn to manage their own learning with specific prompting or

solution-oriented questions.

Peer tutoring, an approach that involves pairing students together to learn or practice an academic

task.

Visual representation, which uses manipulatives, pictures, number lines, and graphs of functions and

relationships to teach mathematical concepts.

Of course, to make use of this information, an educator would need to know much more about each

approach. So let’s take a closer look.

Back to top

Explicit and Systematic Instruction

Explicit instruction, often called direct instruction, refers to an instructional practice that carefully constructs

interactions between students and their teacher. Teachers clearly state a teaching objective and follow a

defined instructional sequence. They assess how much students already know on the subject and tailor

subsequent instruction, based upon that initial evaluation of student skills. Students move through the

curriculum, both individually and in groups, repeatedly practicing skills at a pace determined by the teacher’s

understanding of student needs and progress (Swanson, 2001). Explicit instruction has been found to be

especially successful when a child has problems with a specific or isolated skill (Kroesbergen & Van Luit,

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) offers a helpful snapshot of an explicit instructional

4.
episode (Hall, 2002), shown in Figure 1 below. Consistent communication between teacher and student

creates the foundation for the instructional process. Instructional episodes involve pacing a lesson

appropriately, allowing adequate processing and feedback time, encouraging frequent student reponses,

and listening and monitoring throughout a lesson.

Systematic instruction focuses on teaching

students how to learn by giving them the tools and

techniques that efficient learners use to

understand and learn new material or skills.

Systematic instruction, sometimes called “strategy

instruction,” refers to the strategies students learn

that help them integrate new information with what

is already known in a way that makes sense and

be able to recall the information or skill later, even

in a different situation or place. Typically, teachers

model strategy use for students, including thinking

aloud through the problem-solving process, so

students can see when and how to use a

particular strategy and what they can gain by

doing so. Systematic instruction is particularly

helpful in strengthening essential skills such as

organization and attention, and often includes:

Memory devices, to help students remember the strategy (e.g., a first-letter mnemonic created by

forming a word from the beginning letters of other words);

Strategy steps stated in everyday language and beginning with action verbs (e.g., read the problem

carefully);

Strategy steps stated in the order in which they are to be used (e.g., students are cued to read the

word problem carefully before trying to solving the problem);

Strategy steps that prompt students to use cognitive abilities (e.g., the critical steps needed in solving

a problem) (Lenz, Ellis, & Scanlon, 1996, as cited in Maccini & Gagnon, n.d.).

All students can benefit from a systematic approach to instruction, not just those with disabilities. That’s why

many of the textbooks being published today include overt systematic approaches to instruction in their

explanations and learning activities. It’s also why NICHCY’s first Evidence for Education was devoted to the

power of strategy instruction. The research into systematic and explicit instruction is clear—the approaches

taken together positively impact student learning (Swanson, in press). The National Mathematics Advisory

Panel Report (2008) found that explicit instruction was primarily effective for computation (i.e., basic math

operations), but not as effective for higher order problem solving. That being understood, meta-analyses

and research reviews by Swanson (1999, 2001) and Swanson and Hoskyn (1998) assert that breaking down

instruction into steps, working in small groups, questioning students directly, and promoting ongoing practice

and feedback seem to have greater impact when combined with systematic “strategies.”

For M ore Information on

Explicit and Systematic Instruction

National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI)

The Access Center’s Direct or Explicit Instruction and Mathematics

Special Connections’ Direct Instruction: Math

NICHCY’s The Power of Strategy Instruction

The Access Center’s Strategy/Implicit Instruction and Mathematics

creates the foundation for the instructional process. Instructional episodes involve pacing a lesson

appropriately, allowing adequate processing and feedback time, encouraging frequent student reponses,

and listening and monitoring throughout a lesson.

Systematic instruction focuses on teaching

students how to learn by giving them the tools and

techniques that efficient learners use to

understand and learn new material or skills.

Systematic instruction, sometimes called “strategy

instruction,” refers to the strategies students learn

that help them integrate new information with what

is already known in a way that makes sense and

be able to recall the information or skill later, even

in a different situation or place. Typically, teachers

model strategy use for students, including thinking

aloud through the problem-solving process, so

students can see when and how to use a

particular strategy and what they can gain by

doing so. Systematic instruction is particularly

helpful in strengthening essential skills such as

organization and attention, and often includes:

Memory devices, to help students remember the strategy (e.g., a first-letter mnemonic created by

forming a word from the beginning letters of other words);

Strategy steps stated in everyday language and beginning with action verbs (e.g., read the problem

carefully);

Strategy steps stated in the order in which they are to be used (e.g., students are cued to read the

word problem carefully before trying to solving the problem);

Strategy steps that prompt students to use cognitive abilities (e.g., the critical steps needed in solving

a problem) (Lenz, Ellis, & Scanlon, 1996, as cited in Maccini & Gagnon, n.d.).

All students can benefit from a systematic approach to instruction, not just those with disabilities. That’s why

many of the textbooks being published today include overt systematic approaches to instruction in their

explanations and learning activities. It’s also why NICHCY’s first Evidence for Education was devoted to the

power of strategy instruction. The research into systematic and explicit instruction is clear—the approaches

taken together positively impact student learning (Swanson, in press). The National Mathematics Advisory

Panel Report (2008) found that explicit instruction was primarily effective for computation (i.e., basic math

operations), but not as effective for higher order problem solving. That being understood, meta-analyses

and research reviews by Swanson (1999, 2001) and Swanson and Hoskyn (1998) assert that breaking down

instruction into steps, working in small groups, questioning students directly, and promoting ongoing practice

and feedback seem to have greater impact when combined with systematic “strategies.”

For M ore Information on

Explicit and Systematic Instruction

National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI)

The Access Center’s Direct or Explicit Instruction and Mathematics

Special Connections’ Direct Instruction: Math

NICHCY’s The Power of Strategy Instruction

The Access Center’s Strategy/Implicit Instruction and Mathematics

5.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Cognitive Strategy Instruction: Math

What does a combined systematic and explicit instructional approach look like in practice? Tammy Cihylik, a

learning support teacher at Harry S. Truman Elementary School in Allentown, Pennsylvania, describes a

first-grade lesson that uses money to explore mathematical concepts:

“[Students] use manipulatives,” she explains, “looking at the penny, identifying the penny.” Cihylik prompts

the students with explicit questions: “What does the penny look like? How much is it worth?” Then she

provides the answers herself, with statements like, “The penny is brown, and is worth one cent.” Cihylik

encourages students to repeat the descriptive phrases after her, and then leads them in applying that basic

understanding in a systematic fashion. After counting out five pennies and demonstrating their worth of five

cents, she instructs the students to count out six pennies and report their worth. She repeats this activity

each day, and incorporates other coins and questions as students master the idea of value.

Within this example, the relationship between explicit and systematic instruction becomes clear. The teacher

is leading the instructional process through continually checking in, demonstration, and scaffolding/extending

ideas as students build understanding. She uses specific strategies involving prompts that remind students

the value of the coins, simply stated action verbs, and metacognitive cues that ask students to monitor their

money. Montague (2007) suggests, “The instructional method underlying cognitive strategy instruction is

explicit instruction.”

Back to top

Self-instruction refers to a variety of self-regulation strategies that students can use to manage themselves

as learners and direct their own behavior, including their attention (Graham, Harris, & Reid, 1992). Learning

is essentially broken down into elements that contribute to success:

setting goals

keeping on task

checking your work as you go

remembering to use a specific strategy

monitoring your own progress

being alert to confusion or distraction and taking corrective action

checking your answer to make sure it makes sense and that the math calculations were correctly

done.

When students discuss the nature of learning in this way, they develop both a detailed picture of themselves

as learners (known as metacognitive awareness) and the self-regulation skills that good learners use to

manage and take charge of the learning process. Some examples of self-instruction statements are shown

on the next page.

To teach students to “talk to themselves” while learning new information, solving a math problem, or

completing a task, teachers first model self-instruction aloud. They take a task and think aloud while working

through it, crafting a monologue that overtly includes the mental behaviors associated with effective learning:

goal-setting, self-monitoring, self-questioning, and self-checking. Montague (2004) suggests that both

correct and incorrect problem-solving behaviors be modeled.

Modeling of correct behaviors helps students understand how good problem solvers use the processes and

strategies appropriately. Modeling of incorrect behaviors allows students to learn how to use self-regulation

strategies to monitor their performance and locate and correct errors. Self-regulation strategies are learned

and practiced in the actual context of problem solving. When students learn the modeling routine, they then

can exchange places with the teacher and become models for their peers. (p. 5)

The self-statements that students use to talk themselves through the problem-solving process are actually

prompting students to use a range of strategies and to recognize that certain strategies need to be deployed

What does a combined systematic and explicit instructional approach look like in practice? Tammy Cihylik, a

learning support teacher at Harry S. Truman Elementary School in Allentown, Pennsylvania, describes a

first-grade lesson that uses money to explore mathematical concepts:

“[Students] use manipulatives,” she explains, “looking at the penny, identifying the penny.” Cihylik prompts

the students with explicit questions: “What does the penny look like? How much is it worth?” Then she

provides the answers herself, with statements like, “The penny is brown, and is worth one cent.” Cihylik

encourages students to repeat the descriptive phrases after her, and then leads them in applying that basic

understanding in a systematic fashion. After counting out five pennies and demonstrating their worth of five

cents, she instructs the students to count out six pennies and report their worth. She repeats this activity

each day, and incorporates other coins and questions as students master the idea of value.

Within this example, the relationship between explicit and systematic instruction becomes clear. The teacher

is leading the instructional process through continually checking in, demonstration, and scaffolding/extending

ideas as students build understanding. She uses specific strategies involving prompts that remind students

the value of the coins, simply stated action verbs, and metacognitive cues that ask students to monitor their

money. Montague (2007) suggests, “The instructional method underlying cognitive strategy instruction is

explicit instruction.”

Back to top

Self-instruction refers to a variety of self-regulation strategies that students can use to manage themselves

as learners and direct their own behavior, including their attention (Graham, Harris, & Reid, 1992). Learning

is essentially broken down into elements that contribute to success:

setting goals

keeping on task

checking your work as you go

remembering to use a specific strategy

monitoring your own progress

being alert to confusion or distraction and taking corrective action

checking your answer to make sure it makes sense and that the math calculations were correctly

done.

When students discuss the nature of learning in this way, they develop both a detailed picture of themselves

as learners (known as metacognitive awareness) and the self-regulation skills that good learners use to

manage and take charge of the learning process. Some examples of self-instruction statements are shown

on the next page.

To teach students to “talk to themselves” while learning new information, solving a math problem, or

completing a task, teachers first model self-instruction aloud. They take a task and think aloud while working

through it, crafting a monologue that overtly includes the mental behaviors associated with effective learning:

goal-setting, self-monitoring, self-questioning, and self-checking. Montague (2004) suggests that both

correct and incorrect problem-solving behaviors be modeled.

Modeling of correct behaviors helps students understand how good problem solvers use the processes and

strategies appropriately. Modeling of incorrect behaviors allows students to learn how to use self-regulation

strategies to monitor their performance and locate and correct errors. Self-regulation strategies are learned

and practiced in the actual context of problem solving. When students learn the modeling routine, they then

can exchange places with the teacher and become models for their peers. (p. 5)

The self-statements that students use to talk themselves through the problem-solving process are actually

prompting students to use a range of strategies and to recognize that certain strategies need to be deployed

6.
at certain times (e.g., self-evaluation when you’re done, to check your work). Because learning is a very

personal experience, it’s important that teachers and students work together to generate self-statements that

are not only appropriate to the math tasks at hand but also to individual students. Instruction also needs to

include frequent opportunities to practice their use, with feedback (Graham et al., 1992) until students have

internalized the process.

For M ore Information and Guidance on Self-Instruction

Penn State’s Self-Regulation Abilities, Beyond Intelligence, Play Major Role in Early Achievement

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT)’s module, Self-Regulation

The Access Center’s Math Problem Solving for Primary Elementary Students with Disabilities

The Access Center’s Math Problem Solving for Upper Elementary Students with Disabilities

Marjorie Montague’s 2007 article, “Self-Regulation and Mathematics Instruction” in Learning Disabilities

Research & Practice, 22(1), 75–83. (This article appears in a special issue of the journal devoted to math

Back to top

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring is a term that’s been used to describe a wide array of tutoring arrangements, but most of the

research on its success refers to students working in pairs to help one another learn material or practice an

academic task. Peer tutoring works best when students of different ability levels work together (Kunsch,

Jitendra, & Sood, 2007). During a peer tutoring assignment, it is common for the teacher to have students

switch roles partway through, so the tutor becomes the tutee. Since explaining a concept to another person

helps extend one’s own learning, this practice gives both students the opportunity to better understand the

material being studied.

Research has also shown that a variety of peer-tutoring programs are effective in teaching mathematics,

including Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT), Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), and Reciprocal Peer

Tutoring (RPT) (Barley et al., 2002). Successful peer-tutoring approaches may involve the use of different

materials, reward systems, and reinforcement procedures, but at their core they share the following

characteristics (Barley et al., 2002):

The teacher trains the students to act both as tutors and tutees, so they are prepared to tutor, and

receive tutoring from, their peers. Before engaging in a peer-tutoring program, students need to

understand how the peer- tutoring process works and what is expected of them in each role.

Peer-tutoring programs benefit from using highly structured activities. Structured activities may include

teacher-prepared materials and lessons (as in Classwide Peer Tutoring) or structured teaching

routines that students follow when it is their turn to be the teacher (as in Reciprocal Peer Tutoring).

Materials used for the lesson (e.g., flashcards, worksheets, manipulatives, and assessment materials)

should be provided to the students. Students engaging in peer tutoring require the same materials to

teach each other as a teacher would use for the lesson.

Continual monitoring and feedback from the teacher help students engaged in peer tutoring stay

focused on the lesson and improve their tutoring and learning skills.

Finally, there is mounting research evidence to suggest that, while low-achieving students may receive

moderate benefits from peer tutoring, effects for students specifically identified with LD may be less

noticeable unless care is taken to pair these students with a more proficient peer who can model and guide

personal experience, it’s important that teachers and students work together to generate self-statements that

are not only appropriate to the math tasks at hand but also to individual students. Instruction also needs to

include frequent opportunities to practice their use, with feedback (Graham et al., 1992) until students have

internalized the process.

For M ore Information and Guidance on Self-Instruction

Penn State’s Self-Regulation Abilities, Beyond Intelligence, Play Major Role in Early Achievement

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT)’s module, Self-Regulation

The Access Center’s Math Problem Solving for Primary Elementary Students with Disabilities

The Access Center’s Math Problem Solving for Upper Elementary Students with Disabilities

Marjorie Montague’s 2007 article, “Self-Regulation and Mathematics Instruction” in Learning Disabilities

Research & Practice, 22(1), 75–83. (This article appears in a special issue of the journal devoted to math

Back to top

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring is a term that’s been used to describe a wide array of tutoring arrangements, but most of the

research on its success refers to students working in pairs to help one another learn material or practice an

academic task. Peer tutoring works best when students of different ability levels work together (Kunsch,

Jitendra, & Sood, 2007). During a peer tutoring assignment, it is common for the teacher to have students

switch roles partway through, so the tutor becomes the tutee. Since explaining a concept to another person

helps extend one’s own learning, this practice gives both students the opportunity to better understand the

material being studied.

Research has also shown that a variety of peer-tutoring programs are effective in teaching mathematics,

including Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT), Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), and Reciprocal Peer

Tutoring (RPT) (Barley et al., 2002). Successful peer-tutoring approaches may involve the use of different

materials, reward systems, and reinforcement procedures, but at their core they share the following

characteristics (Barley et al., 2002):

The teacher trains the students to act both as tutors and tutees, so they are prepared to tutor, and

receive tutoring from, their peers. Before engaging in a peer-tutoring program, students need to

understand how the peer- tutoring process works and what is expected of them in each role.

Peer-tutoring programs benefit from using highly structured activities. Structured activities may include

teacher-prepared materials and lessons (as in Classwide Peer Tutoring) or structured teaching

routines that students follow when it is their turn to be the teacher (as in Reciprocal Peer Tutoring).

Materials used for the lesson (e.g., flashcards, worksheets, manipulatives, and assessment materials)

should be provided to the students. Students engaging in peer tutoring require the same materials to

teach each other as a teacher would use for the lesson.

Continual monitoring and feedback from the teacher help students engaged in peer tutoring stay

focused on the lesson and improve their tutoring and learning skills.

Finally, there is mounting research evidence to suggest that, while low-achieving students may receive

moderate benefits from peer tutoring, effects for students specifically identified with LD may be less

noticeable unless care is taken to pair these students with a more proficient peer who can model and guide

7.
learning objectives (Kunsch, Jitendra, & Sood, 2007).

For M ore Information on Peer Tutoring

Vanderbilt’s Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS)

The Institute of Education Sciences’ Intervention: Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS)

The Institute of Education Sciences’ Intervention: ClassWide Peer Tutoring (CWPT)

The Access Center’s Using Peer Tutoring for Math

The Access Center’s Using Peer Tutoring to Facilitate Access

(Reviews the use of CWPT, RPT, and PALS in teaching mathematics and other subjects)

Fulk and King’s Classwide Peer Tutoring at Work

Special Connection’s An Introduction to ClassWide Peer Tutoring

The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice’s Classwide Peer Tutoring: Information for Families

Back to top

Visual Representations

Mathematics instruction is a complex process that attempts to make abstract concepts tangible, difficult ideas

understandable, and multifaceted problems solvable. Visual representations bring research-based options,

tools, and alternatives to bear in meeting the instructional challenge of mathematics education (Gersten et

al., 2008).

Visual representations, broadly defined, can include manipulatives, pictures, number lines, and graphs of

functions and relationships. “Representation approaches to solving mathematical problems include pictorial

(e.g., diagramming); concrete (e.g., manipulatives); verbal (linguistic training); and mapping instruction

(schema-based)” (Xin & Jitendra, 1999, p. 211). Research has explored the ways in which visual

representations can be used in solving story problems (Walker & Poteet, 1989); learning basic math skills

such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (Manalo, Bunnell, & Stillman, 2000); and mastering

fractions (Butler, Miller, Crehan, Babbitt, & Pierce, 2003) and algebra (Witzel, Mercer, & Miller, 2003).

Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) techniques are probably the most common example of

mathematics instruction incorporating visual representations. The CRA technique actually refers to a simple

concept that has proven to be a very effective method of teaching math to students with disabilities (Butler et

al., 2003; Morin & Miller, 1998). CRA is a three-part instructional strategy in which the teacher first uses

concrete materials (such as colored chips, base-ten blocks, geometric figures, pattern blocks, or unifix

cubes) to model the mathematical concept to be learned, then demonstrates the concept in representational

terms (such as drawing pictures), and finally in abstract or symbolic terms (such as numbers, notation, or

mathematical symbols).

During a fraction lesson using CRA techniques, for example, the teacher might first show the students plastic

pie pieces, and explain that, when the circle is split into 4 pieces, each of those pieces is ¼ of the whole, and

when a circle is split into 8 pieces, each piece is ⅛ of the whole. After seeing the teacher demonstrate

fraction concepts using concrete manipulatives, students would then be given plastic circles split into equal

pieces and asked what portion of the whole one section of that circle would be. By holding the objects in their

For M ore Information on Peer Tutoring

Vanderbilt’s Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS)

The Institute of Education Sciences’ Intervention: Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS)

The Institute of Education Sciences’ Intervention: ClassWide Peer Tutoring (CWPT)

The Access Center’s Using Peer Tutoring for Math

The Access Center’s Using Peer Tutoring to Facilitate Access

(Reviews the use of CWPT, RPT, and PALS in teaching mathematics and other subjects)

Fulk and King’s Classwide Peer Tutoring at Work

Special Connection’s An Introduction to ClassWide Peer Tutoring

The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice’s Classwide Peer Tutoring: Information for Families

Back to top

Visual Representations

Mathematics instruction is a complex process that attempts to make abstract concepts tangible, difficult ideas

understandable, and multifaceted problems solvable. Visual representations bring research-based options,

tools, and alternatives to bear in meeting the instructional challenge of mathematics education (Gersten et

al., 2008).

Visual representations, broadly defined, can include manipulatives, pictures, number lines, and graphs of

functions and relationships. “Representation approaches to solving mathematical problems include pictorial

(e.g., diagramming); concrete (e.g., manipulatives); verbal (linguistic training); and mapping instruction

(schema-based)” (Xin & Jitendra, 1999, p. 211). Research has explored the ways in which visual

representations can be used in solving story problems (Walker & Poteet, 1989); learning basic math skills

such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (Manalo, Bunnell, & Stillman, 2000); and mastering

fractions (Butler, Miller, Crehan, Babbitt, & Pierce, 2003) and algebra (Witzel, Mercer, & Miller, 2003).

Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) techniques are probably the most common example of

mathematics instruction incorporating visual representations. The CRA technique actually refers to a simple

concept that has proven to be a very effective method of teaching math to students with disabilities (Butler et

al., 2003; Morin & Miller, 1998). CRA is a three-part instructional strategy in which the teacher first uses

concrete materials (such as colored chips, base-ten blocks, geometric figures, pattern blocks, or unifix

cubes) to model the mathematical concept to be learned, then demonstrates the concept in representational

terms (such as drawing pictures), and finally in abstract or symbolic terms (such as numbers, notation, or

mathematical symbols).

During a fraction lesson using CRA techniques, for example, the teacher might first show the students plastic

pie pieces, and explain that, when the circle is split into 4 pieces, each of those pieces is ¼ of the whole, and

when a circle is split into 8 pieces, each piece is ⅛ of the whole. After seeing the teacher demonstrate

fraction concepts using concrete manipulatives, students would then be given plastic circles split into equal

pieces and asked what portion of the whole one section of that circle would be. By holding the objects in their

8.
hands and working with them concretely, students are actually building a mental image of the reality being

explored physically.

After introducing the concept of fractions with concrete manipulatives, the teacher would model the concept

in representational terms, either by drawing pictures or by giving students a worksheet of unfilled-in circles

split into different fractions and asking students to shade in segments to show the fraction of the circle the

teacher names.

In the final stage of the CRA technique, the teacher demonstrates how fractions are written using abstract

terms such as numbers and symbols (e.g., ¼ or ½). The teacher would explain what the numerator and

denominator are and allow students to practice writing different fractions

on their own.

As the Access Center (2004) points out, CRA works well with individual students, in small groups, and with an

entire class. It’s also appropriate at both the elementary and secondary levels. The National Council of

Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recommends that, when using CRA, teachers make sure that students

understand what has been taught at each step before moving instruction to the next stage (Berkas &

Pattison, 2007). In some cases, students may need to continue using manipulatives in the representational

and abstract stages, as a way of demonstrating understanding.

For M ore Information and Guidance on Visual Representations

The Access Center’s Concrete-Representational-Abstract Instructional Approach

TeachingLD’s Teaching Students Math Problem-Solving Through Graphic Representations

Special Connection’s Concrete-Representational-Abstract (C-R-A) Instruction

MathVIDS’ Concrete-Representational-Abstract Sequence of Instruction

Using Research-based Methods to Teach Fraction Concepts: What REALLY Works

Back to top

Putting the Research to Work: Choosing and Using Effective Math

Intervention Strategies

We’ve briefly examined four approaches to teaching mathematics to students with disabilities that research

has shown to be effective (Adams & Carnine, 2003; Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002; Kroesbergen & Van Luit,

2003; Xin & Jitendra, 1999). Each is worthy of study in its own right, so we hope that the sources of

additional information we’ve provided will help teachers, administrators, and families bring these research-

based practices into the math classroom.

When it comes time to determine how you can best teach math to your students, select an instructional

intervention that supports the educational goals of those students based on age, needs, and abilities.

Research findings can and do help identify effective and promising practices, but it’s essential to consider

how well-matched any research actually is to your local situation and whether or not a specific practice will be

useful or appropriate for a particular classroom or child. Interventions are likely to be most effective when

they are applied to similar content, in similar settings, and with the age groups intended for them. That’s why

it’s important to look closely at the components of any research study to determine whether the overall

findings provide appropriate guidance for your specific students, subjects, and grades—apples to apples, so

to speak.

Of great value to those seeking to better understand the evidence base for math (and other) educational

explored physically.

After introducing the concept of fractions with concrete manipulatives, the teacher would model the concept

in representational terms, either by drawing pictures or by giving students a worksheet of unfilled-in circles

split into different fractions and asking students to shade in segments to show the fraction of the circle the

teacher names.

In the final stage of the CRA technique, the teacher demonstrates how fractions are written using abstract

terms such as numbers and symbols (e.g., ¼ or ½). The teacher would explain what the numerator and

denominator are and allow students to practice writing different fractions

on their own.

As the Access Center (2004) points out, CRA works well with individual students, in small groups, and with an

entire class. It’s also appropriate at both the elementary and secondary levels. The National Council of

Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recommends that, when using CRA, teachers make sure that students

understand what has been taught at each step before moving instruction to the next stage (Berkas &

Pattison, 2007). In some cases, students may need to continue using manipulatives in the representational

and abstract stages, as a way of demonstrating understanding.

For M ore Information and Guidance on Visual Representations

The Access Center’s Concrete-Representational-Abstract Instructional Approach

TeachingLD’s Teaching Students Math Problem-Solving Through Graphic Representations

Special Connection’s Concrete-Representational-Abstract (C-R-A) Instruction

MathVIDS’ Concrete-Representational-Abstract Sequence of Instruction

Using Research-based Methods to Teach Fraction Concepts: What REALLY Works

Back to top

Putting the Research to Work: Choosing and Using Effective Math

Intervention Strategies

We’ve briefly examined four approaches to teaching mathematics to students with disabilities that research

has shown to be effective (Adams & Carnine, 2003; Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002; Kroesbergen & Van Luit,

2003; Xin & Jitendra, 1999). Each is worthy of study in its own right, so we hope that the sources of

additional information we’ve provided will help teachers, administrators, and families bring these research-

based practices into the math classroom.

When it comes time to determine how you can best teach math to your students, select an instructional

intervention that supports the educational goals of those students based on age, needs, and abilities.

Research findings can and do help identify effective and promising practices, but it’s essential to consider

how well-matched any research actually is to your local situation and whether or not a specific practice will be

useful or appropriate for a particular classroom or child. Interventions are likely to be most effective when

they are applied to similar content, in similar settings, and with the age groups intended for them. That’s why

it’s important to look closely at the components of any research study to determine whether the overall

findings provide appropriate guidance for your specific students, subjects, and grades—apples to apples, so

to speak.

Of great value to those seeking to better understand the evidence base for math (and other) educational

9.
interventions are these three sources of information:

What Works Clearinghouse

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/

Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE)

http://www.bestevidence.org

Center on Instruction

http://www.centeroninstruction.org/index.cfm

Each of these sources looks closely at existing research on educational interventions and reports on their

effectiveness. Each has evaluated a wide range of commercial math series and materials in use around the

country and has categorized them by how much evidence of effectiveness they show. What Works uses six

categories (strong positive, potentially positive, mixed, potentially negative, strong negative, and no

discernible evidence), while the Best Evidence Encyclopedia uses five (strong, moderate, limited, insufficient

to make a judgment, and no qualifying studies), either of which offers valuable information to decision

makers. To help teachers and administrators investigate those interventions most relevant to their local

situation and need, interventions are also broken out by level (elementary and middle and/or high school).

The instructional approaches on which we have focused take place in classrooms where they often coexist,

support, strengthen, and work together to effectively teach students. These approaches can be seen as

threads in the fabric of the classroom. In the complex world of the classroom, students benefit from one-on-

one guidance from a teacher who can model problem-solving techniques and control the difficulty of tasks

through feedback and cues.

And speaking of feedback…consistent and ongoing feedback has been shown to be quite effective in

improving student performance. That’s why it’s an aspect that should be incorporated into all classrooms,

regardless of the intervention. In particular, the value of immediate feedback stands out. Regular feedback

helps students guide and improve their own practice, even as giving feedback helps teachers guide and

tailor their own instruction.

When you consider the interventions described here, it’s exciting to realize that they are ready tools in our

hands and in our classrooms, and can serve us well as a means of improving students’ math proficiency and

outcomes. We hope they do just that.

Back to top

Concrete-Representational-Abstract Techniques – a threepart instructional strategy where the teacher

uses concrete materials (manipulatives) to model a concept to be learned, then uses representational terms

(pictures), and finally uses abstract, symbolic terms (numbers, math symbols).

Explicit and Systematic Instruction – teacher-led demonstrations of various strategies that students, in

turn, use to guide their way through the problem-solving process.

Dyscalculia – a form of learning disability that causes an individual to have difficulty in understanding

concepts of quantity, time, place, value, and sequencing, and in successfully manipulating numbers or their

representations in mathematical operations.

Intervention – specific services, activities, or products developed and implemented to change or improve

student knowledge, attitudes, behavior, or awareness.

M athematical Proficiency – a term developed by the National Research Council that describes five

interrelated strands of knowledge, skills, abilities, and beliefs that allow for mathematics manipulation and

achievement across all mathematical domains (e.g., conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic

competence, adaptive reasoning, and productive disposition) (Kilpatrick et al., 2001).

Operations – mathematical procedures such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Peer Tutoring – an instructional arrangement where students work in pairs to help one another learn

material or practice an academic task.

Representation Techniques – visually or schematically presenting the ideas or information contained in

What Works Clearinghouse

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/

Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE)

http://www.bestevidence.org

Center on Instruction

http://www.centeroninstruction.org/index.cfm

Each of these sources looks closely at existing research on educational interventions and reports on their

effectiveness. Each has evaluated a wide range of commercial math series and materials in use around the

country and has categorized them by how much evidence of effectiveness they show. What Works uses six

categories (strong positive, potentially positive, mixed, potentially negative, strong negative, and no

discernible evidence), while the Best Evidence Encyclopedia uses five (strong, moderate, limited, insufficient

to make a judgment, and no qualifying studies), either of which offers valuable information to decision

makers. To help teachers and administrators investigate those interventions most relevant to their local

situation and need, interventions are also broken out by level (elementary and middle and/or high school).

The instructional approaches on which we have focused take place in classrooms where they often coexist,

support, strengthen, and work together to effectively teach students. These approaches can be seen as

threads in the fabric of the classroom. In the complex world of the classroom, students benefit from one-on-

one guidance from a teacher who can model problem-solving techniques and control the difficulty of tasks

through feedback and cues.

And speaking of feedback…consistent and ongoing feedback has been shown to be quite effective in

improving student performance. That’s why it’s an aspect that should be incorporated into all classrooms,

regardless of the intervention. In particular, the value of immediate feedback stands out. Regular feedback

helps students guide and improve their own practice, even as giving feedback helps teachers guide and

tailor their own instruction.

When you consider the interventions described here, it’s exciting to realize that they are ready tools in our

hands and in our classrooms, and can serve us well as a means of improving students’ math proficiency and

outcomes. We hope they do just that.

Back to top

Concrete-Representational-Abstract Techniques – a threepart instructional strategy where the teacher

uses concrete materials (manipulatives) to model a concept to be learned, then uses representational terms

(pictures), and finally uses abstract, symbolic terms (numbers, math symbols).

Explicit and Systematic Instruction – teacher-led demonstrations of various strategies that students, in

turn, use to guide their way through the problem-solving process.

Dyscalculia – a form of learning disability that causes an individual to have difficulty in understanding

concepts of quantity, time, place, value, and sequencing, and in successfully manipulating numbers or their

representations in mathematical operations.

Intervention – specific services, activities, or products developed and implemented to change or improve

student knowledge, attitudes, behavior, or awareness.

M athematical Proficiency – a term developed by the National Research Council that describes five

interrelated strands of knowledge, skills, abilities, and beliefs that allow for mathematics manipulation and

achievement across all mathematical domains (e.g., conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic

competence, adaptive reasoning, and productive disposition) (Kilpatrick et al., 2001).

Operations – mathematical procedures such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Peer Tutoring – an instructional arrangement where students work in pairs to help one another learn

material or practice an academic task.

Representation Techniques – visually or schematically presenting the ideas or information contained in

10.
word problems in language or visual media.

Self-Instruction – an instructional approach that teaches students to use a variety of self-statements or

verbal prompts to guide themselves through the problem-solving process.

Strategy Instruction/Strategy Training – an instructional approach that teaches students how to use the

same tools and techniques that efficient learners use to understand and learn new material or skills.

Back to top

Access Center. (2004). Concrete-representational-abstract instructional approach. Retrieved March 21,

2008, from the Access Center Web site:

Adams, G., & Carnine, D. (2003). Direct instruction. In H. L. Swanson, K. R. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.),

Handbook of learning disabilities (pp. 403–416). New York: Guilford Press.

Baker, S., Gersten, R., & Lee, D. (2002). A synthesis of empirical research on teaching mathematics to low-

achieving students. The Elementary School Journal, 103(1), 51–73.

Barley, Z., Lauer, P. A., Arens, S. A., Apthorp, H. S., Englert, K. S., Snow, D., & Akiba, M. (2002). Helping at-

risk students meet standards: A synthesis of evidence-based classroom practices. Retrieved March 20,

2008, from the Midcontinent Research for Education and Learning Web site:

http://www.mcrel.org/PDF/Synthesis/5022RR_RSHelpingAtRisk.pdf

Berkas, N., & Pattison, C. (2007, November). Manipulatives: More than a special education intervention.

NCTM News Bulletin. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Web

site: http://www.nctm.org/news/release_list.aspx?id=12698

Browder, D. M., Spooner, F., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., Harris, A., & Wakeman, S. Y., (2008). A meta-analysis on

teaching mathematics to students with significant cognitive disabilities. Exceptional Children, 74(4), 407-432.

Butler, F. M., Miller, S. P., Crehan, K., Babbitt, B., & Pierce, T. (2003). Fraction instruction for students with

mathematics disabilities: Comparing two teaching sequences. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice,

18(2), 99-111.

Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (2002). Mathematical problem solving profiles of students with mathematics

disabilities with and without co-morbid reading disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(6), 563–573.

Garnett, K. (1998). Math learning disabilities. Retrieved November 10, 2006, from the LD Online Web site:

Geary, D. C. (2001). Mathematical disabilities: What we know and don’t know. Retrieved November 10,

2006, from the LD Online Web site: http://www.ldonline.org/article/5881

Geary, D. C. (2004). Mathematics and learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(1), 4–15.

Gersten, R., Ferrini-Mundy, J., Benbow, C., Clements, D., Loveless, T., Williams, V., Arispe, I., & Banfield, M.

(2008). Report of the task group on instructional practices (National Mathematics Advisory Panel). Retrieved

March 20, 2008, from the U.S. Department of Education Web site:

Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Reid, R. (1992). Developing self-regulated learners. Focus on Exceptional

Children, 24(6), 1-16.

Hall, T. (2002). Explicit instruction. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the CAST Web site:

Kilpatrick, J., Swafford, J., & Findell, B. (Eds.). (2001). Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics.

Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the National Academies Press Web site: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?

Kroesbergen, E. H., & Van Luit, J. E. H. (2003). Mathematics interventions for children with special

Self-Instruction – an instructional approach that teaches students to use a variety of self-statements or

verbal prompts to guide themselves through the problem-solving process.

Strategy Instruction/Strategy Training – an instructional approach that teaches students how to use the

same tools and techniques that efficient learners use to understand and learn new material or skills.

Back to top

Access Center. (2004). Concrete-representational-abstract instructional approach. Retrieved March 21,

2008, from the Access Center Web site:

Adams, G., & Carnine, D. (2003). Direct instruction. In H. L. Swanson, K. R. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.),

Handbook of learning disabilities (pp. 403–416). New York: Guilford Press.

Baker, S., Gersten, R., & Lee, D. (2002). A synthesis of empirical research on teaching mathematics to low-

achieving students. The Elementary School Journal, 103(1), 51–73.

Barley, Z., Lauer, P. A., Arens, S. A., Apthorp, H. S., Englert, K. S., Snow, D., & Akiba, M. (2002). Helping at-

risk students meet standards: A synthesis of evidence-based classroom practices. Retrieved March 20,

2008, from the Midcontinent Research for Education and Learning Web site:

http://www.mcrel.org/PDF/Synthesis/5022RR_RSHelpingAtRisk.pdf

Berkas, N., & Pattison, C. (2007, November). Manipulatives: More than a special education intervention.

NCTM News Bulletin. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Web

site: http://www.nctm.org/news/release_list.aspx?id=12698

Browder, D. M., Spooner, F., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., Harris, A., & Wakeman, S. Y., (2008). A meta-analysis on

teaching mathematics to students with significant cognitive disabilities. Exceptional Children, 74(4), 407-432.

Butler, F. M., Miller, S. P., Crehan, K., Babbitt, B., & Pierce, T. (2003). Fraction instruction for students with

mathematics disabilities: Comparing two teaching sequences. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice,

18(2), 99-111.

Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (2002). Mathematical problem solving profiles of students with mathematics

disabilities with and without co-morbid reading disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(6), 563–573.

Garnett, K. (1998). Math learning disabilities. Retrieved November 10, 2006, from the LD Online Web site:

Geary, D. C. (2001). Mathematical disabilities: What we know and don’t know. Retrieved November 10,

2006, from the LD Online Web site: http://www.ldonline.org/article/5881

Geary, D. C. (2004). Mathematics and learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(1), 4–15.

Gersten, R., Ferrini-Mundy, J., Benbow, C., Clements, D., Loveless, T., Williams, V., Arispe, I., & Banfield, M.

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Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Web site:

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mathematics learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 23(2), 137–156.

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Disabilities Research & Practice, 20(3), 142–145.

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2008, from the Access Center Web site:

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22(1), 75-83.

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Education and Treatment of Children, 21, 22–36.

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research and development program in mathematics education. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the Rand

Web site: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1643/index.html

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Spear-Swerling, L. (2005). Components of effective mathematics instruction. Retrieved November 10, 2007,

from the LD Online Web site: http://www.ldonline.org/article/5588

Swanson, H. L. (1999). Instructional components that predict treatment outcomes for students with learning

disabilities: Support for a combined strategy and direct instruction model. Learning Disabilities Research &

Practice, 14(3), 129-140.

Swanson, H. L. (2001). Searching for the best model for instructing students with learning disabilities. Focus

on Exceptional Children, 34(2), 1-15.

Swanson, H. L. (in press). Science-supported math instruction for children with math difficulties: Converting a

meta-analysis to practice. In S. Rosenfield & V. Beringer (Eds.), Translating science supported instruction

into evidence-based practices: Understanding and applying implementation processes. New York: Oxford

University Press.

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disabilities: A meta-analysis of treatment outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 68, 277-321.

12.
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solving with learning disabled students. National Forum of Special Education Journal, 1, 44–51.

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investigation of an explicit instruction model. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18(2), 121–131.

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the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2005. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the U.S. Department of

Education Web site: http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2005/parts-b-c/index.html

U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2005, October). Federal science, technology, engineering, and

mathematics programs and related trends [GAO-06-114]. Retrieved November 10, 2006, from the U.S.

Government Accountability Office Web site: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06114.pdf

Xin, Y. P., & Jitendra, A. K. (1999). The effect of instruction in solving mathematical word problems for

students with learning problems: A meta-analysis. The Journal of Special Education, 32(4), 207–225.

Walker, D. W., & Poteet, J. A. (1989). A comparison of two methods of teaching mathematics story problem-

solving with learning disabled students. National Forum of Special Education Journal, 1, 44–51.

Witzel, B. S., Mercer, C. D., & Miller, M. D. (2003). Teaching algebra to students with learning difficulties: An

investigation of an explicit instruction model. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18(2), 121–131.

Back to top