Graphic organizers applied to secondary algebra instruction for students with learning disorders
Ives, Robert Todd
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Students who have particular difficulty in mathematics are a growing concern for educators. These students may struggle with mathematics because of mathematics specific disorders as well as oral language, reading disorders, and attention disorders. In spite of this growing concern, there is little research on teaching methods and techniques to help these students. This lack of empirical evidence for intervention is increasingly apparent for secondary the mathematics. Empirical evidence does support that students with language and reading disorders appear to benefit from methods and techniques that incorporate concrete and spatial representations of concepts in the learning of basic mathematics skills. However, there is little research to determine if similar efforts would be effective for more advanced mathematics content such as secondary algebra. Graphic organizers, which have been widely used and documented for improving reading comprehension, may be a technique that can be modified for upper level secondary mathematics content. The purpose of this investigation was to address the question of whether integrating graphic organizers into instruction that already incorporates strategy and direct instruction, further contributes to the acquisition of higher level mathematics skills and concepts involved in solving systems of linear equations by students identified as having learning disabilities or attention disorders. Two replications of the application of a two group comparison of means design were carried out. In each replication, one group was taught to solve systems of linear equations through direct and strategy instruction. The other was taught with the same methods into which a graphic organizer was incorporated. Results of immediate posttests indicated that in both replications the students who worked with the graphic organizers demonstrated better performance in solving systems of equations as well as in understanding the concepts that justify the process for solving these systems. The difference in understanding concepts was maintained on a posttest after two to three weeks, but the difference in ability to solve systems of equations was not.