Dissertation

Middle School Math Intervention in the Local Unified School District: Using Constructivist Strategies to Support Struggling Learners

This study explored the effectiveness of a unique math intervention program in a local school district in Orange County, California in terms of academic achievement and student perceptions about their math abilities as a result of their experiences in the program. As the predominate instructional approach, the program provided students with constructivist learning strategies to align with the Common Core State Standards and to strengthen their conceptual understanding of mathematics content. Two summative, end of course exams were given to this group and to a comparable group at another middle school that received a more traditional instructional approach as their primary instructional focus. The second group received instruction with emphasis on algorithmic problem solving steps and memorization of rules and mathematical procedures. Exams were administered mid way through the year and at the end of the year. Results were compared between the groups at each admission and on their overall growth from one administration to the next. Results between the groups were non-significant, perhaps due to the small sample size and uneven comparison groups. Although somewhat close, non-parametric measurements did not reveal significant findings. In a second, qualitative phase of the study, six students, three from each program, completed a rich interview protocol. The purpose was to gather student perceptual changes regarding their math ability as a result of the two different intervention programs. Themed responses in the areas of math anxiety, math self-concept, and math self- efficacy revealed improvements in overall student perceptions about their math ability in both intervention programs. A study with a larger, more even sample size might lead to significant findings. Practitioners, researchers, and policy makers might use the findings of this study to explore and implement additional intervention strategies for struggling math students.

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