Understanding of algebra concepts is necessary for students to gain access to STEM pathways. However, recent efforts in education have failed to improve algebra outcomes for many students, especially those with learning disabilities and persistent difficulties in mathematics. The primary goal of this project is to develop a supplemental intervention that intentionally develops students' concept of variable as they learn to (a) interpret and evaluate expressions, (b) represent real-life mathematical word problems using algebraic notation, and (c) solve linear equations. A focus on clarifying common misconceptions about variables will be interwoven throughout the program.

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Developing Concept of Variable Among Students with Mathematics Difficulties in Preparation for Algebra 1

Understanding of algebra concepts is necessary for students to gain access to STEM pathways. However, recent efforts in education have failed to improve algebra outcomes for many students, especially those with learning disabilities and persistent difficulties in mathematics. Despite prior instruction and intervention, many 8th grade students with mathematics difficulties arrive to algebra coursework without the skills needed to be successful. One of the most fundamental—and critical—ideas for success in algebra is the concept of an algebraic variable. Understanding variables is critical for learning algebra and other mathematics domains such as functions and geometry, both of which are foundational to algebra coursework. The primary goal of this project is to develop a supplemental intervention that intentionally develops students' concept of variable as they learn to (a) interpret and evaluate expressions, (b) represent real-life mathematical word problems using algebraic notation, and (c) solve linear equations. A focus on clarifying common misconceptions about variables will be interwoven throughout the program. Products generated from this project will provide teachers with much-needed resources that are designed to prepare struggling students for success in Algebra I.

Development of the intervention will follow an iterative process across three phases: (1) design and development, (2) a pilot study, and (3) a small-scale randomized control trial to evaluate evidence of promise. The intervention will focus instruction on key algebra standards and support students in their development of the concept of variable via mathematical tasks that align to these standards. The project is grounded in research from the mathematics education and mathematics intervention literatures and combines instructional practices from both disciplines. Project activities include development of intervention materials, feedback from an advisory panel, teacher feedback following implementation during an initial feasibility test, a pilot study, and a randomized controlled trial. Approximately 70 students will be involved in the small-scale randomized controlled trial and impacts will be assessed using an intent-to-treat analysis with a two-level model for a partially nested design. The impacts and social validity of the intervention will be assessed through analyses of student performance and teacher and student surveys.

## Project Materials

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