The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.
The 3-year exploratory project, Conceptual Model-based Problem Solving: A Response to Intervention Program for Students with Learning Difficulties in Mathematics, will develop a cross-platform mathematics tutoring program that addresses the problem-solving skill difficulties of second- and third-grade students with learning disabilities in mathematics (LDM). While mathematics problem-solving skills are critical in all areas of daily life, many students with LDM do not acquire key math concepts such as additive and multiplicative reasoning in a proficient manner during the early school years. In fact, about 5-10% of school-age children are identified as having mathematical disabilities which might cause them to experience considerable difficulties in the upper grades and experience persistent academic, life, and work challenges. Despite the proliferation of web-based mathematical games for early learners, there are very few programs or tools that target growth in the conceptual understanding of fundamental mathematical ideas, which is essential in enabling young students with LDM to perform proficiently in mathematical and everyday contexts. COMPS-A is a computer-generated instructional program focusing on additive word problem solving; it will provide tutoring specifically tailored to each individual student's learning profile in real time. COMPS-A will also make the reasoning and underlying mathematical model more explicit to them, and the tool's flexibility will facilitate group or one-on-one instruction in regular classroom settings, in other sessions during or after the school day, and at home. COMPS-A addresses a significant practical issue in today's classrooms by providing individualized and effective RtI intervention programs for students with LDM.
COMPS-A program represents a mathematical model-based problem-solving approach that emphasizes understanding and representation of mathematical relations in algebraic equations and, thus, will support growth in generalized problem-solving skills.COMPS-A will achieve the following objectives: 1) Create the curriculum content, screen design, and a teacher's manual for all four modules in the area of additive word problem solving; 2) Design and develop the cross-platform computer application that can be ported as a web-based, iPad, Android, or Windows app, and this flexibility will make the program accessible to all students; and 3) Conduct small-scale single subject design and randomized controlled trial studies to evaluate the potential of COMPS-A to enhance students' word problem-solving performance. The following research questions will be resolved: (1) What is the functional relationship between the COMPS-A program and students' performance in additive mathematics problem solving? (2) What is the teacher's role in identifying students' misconceptions, alternative reasoning, and knowledge gaps when students are not responsive to the intervention program? (3) What are the necessary instructional scaffolds that will address students' knowledge gaps and therefore facilitate the connection between students' conceptual schemes and the mathematical models necessary for problem solving in order to promote meaningful understanding and construction of additive reasoning? A functional prototype of the COMPS-A will be developed followed by a single-subject design study with a small group of students with LDM to field-test the initial program. Finally, a pretest-posttest, comparison group design with random assignment of participants to groups will then be used to examine the effects of the two intervention conditions: COMPS-A and business as usual. An extensive dissemination plan will enable the project team to share results to a wider community that is responsible for educating all students and, especially, students with LDM.