Effects of Cognitive Strategy Interventions on Word Problem Solving and Working Memory in Children with Math DisabilitiesReport as inadecuate

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Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness

Although current categories of learning disabilities include as specific disabilities calculation and mathematical problem solving [see IDEA reauthorization, 2004, Sec. 300.8(c)(10)], the majority of research focuses on calculation disabilities. Previous studies have shown, however, that deficits in word problem solving difficulties are persistent across the elementary school years even when calculation and reading skills are in the normal achievement range (Swanson et al., 2008). Previous research shows that growth in working memory (WM) is related to growth in word problem solving accuracy for children with math disabilities (MD e.g., Swanson, 2006, Swanson et al., 2008). However, the research is unclear as to the interventions that compensate for WM limitations in children with MD that in turn positively influence performance on problem solving measures. The purpose of this intervention study was to determine whether children with MD improve in problem solving ability as a function of strategy intervention that emphasizes relevant components of word problems. Children with MD and without MD were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: verbal strategies, visual strategies or a combination of both verbal and visual strategies. This study addressed three questions:(1) Do cognitive strategies that direct MD children's attention to relevant components of word problems in the context of distracting or irrelevant information enhance mathematical problem solving accuracy when compared to control conditions? (2) Are visual-spatial strategies in isolation or when combined with verbal strategies more effective than verbal strategies in isolation for children with MD? and (3) Do specific cognitive strategies and increases in WM load (number of irrelevant sentences in word problems) play an independent or interactive role in facilitating solution accuracy and transfer? One hundred and twenty (120) children from grades 2 and 3 in a Southern California public school district participated in this study. The primary findings were: both children with and without MD significantly improved word problem solving accuracy at post-test relative to other conditions, (b) pretest/post-test changes in correctly identifying relevant/irrelevant components mediated the effects of treatment on solution accuracy, (c) transfer (tasks independent of training) occurred on CBM of text word problems, verbal WM and calculation, and (d) individual differences in WM capacity interacted with treatment conditions when predicting overall solution accuracy.

Descriptors: Sentences, Intervention, Learning Disabilities, Problem Solving, Short Term Memory, Word Problems (Mathematics), Computation, Grade 2, Reading Skills, Cognitive Processes, Learning Strategies, Verbal Communication, Visual Stimuli, Spatial Ability, Mathematics Skills, Grade 3, Elementary School Mathematics, Program Effectiveness

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Author: Swanson, H. Lee; Lussier, Catherine; Orosco, Michael

Source: https://eric.ed.gov/?q=a&ft=on&ff1=dtySince_1992&pg=4495&id=ED528922

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