When instruction doesn't add up: a practical action research study identifying strategies for helping 6th grade learners with special needs overcome barriers in math

The purpose of this study was to identify strategies for helping sixth grade learners with special needs achieve in math. The research design was practical action research, which focused on discovering effective strategies to improve the math skills of students who had a known history of struggling in this curricular area. The five students in this study participated in a before-school math intervention program supported by Title I funding. In this class, they received instruction about strategies to help them succeed in their general education math classes. These strategies included color coding, highlighting, and learning how to spatially organize their math work. The Getting Ready for Algebra Program was used to measure students' achievement prior to and following the application of the strategies and instruction. Data from the 2005 and 2006 California Standards Test of Mathematics ( CS1) were also used. The results of the pre-and post-tests from Getting Ready for Algebra: Unit One, and the 2005 and 2006 CST scores were analyzed to determine whether the strategies used affected student achievement. Four study participants (students with learning disabilities who struggled in math) improved, although not significantly. The study findings may have been limited by the brevity of the data collection period. Also, students attended this support class on a voluntary basis, which may also have affected the outcomes. Key words: dyscalculia, direct instruction, instructional strategies, learning disabilities, learning center