Monday, July 27, 2015

The effectiveness of instructional practices for first-grade math

The effectiveness of instructional

 practices for first-grade math

July 22, 2015
A new study by Pennsylvania State University researchers examines which types of instructional practices are most effective with first-grade math students—both with and without mathematical difficulties (MD).
They analyzed survey responses from roughly 3,600 teachers and data from over thirteen thousand kindergarten children in the class of 1998–99. The database is known as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). The authors then controlled for students’ prior math and reading achievement, family income, classroom and school contexts, and other factors. (MD was defined as falling in the bottom 15 percent of the score distribution on the ECLS-K Math test.)

The key findings: In first-grade classrooms with higher percentages of MD students, teachers were more likely to use practices not associated with greater math achievement by these students. These non-effective practices included using manipulatives, calculators, movement, and music to learn math. It should be noted that these practices were also ineffective for students without math difficulties.
Yet more frequent use of teacher-directed instructional practices was consistently associated with gains in math achievement for first graders with MD. More specifically, the most effective instructional practice teachers could use with these struggling students was routine practice and drills (that’s right, drill and kill!). Similarly, lots of chalkboard instruction, traditional textbook practice problems, and worksheets that went over math skills and concepts were also effective with them.

Source material:
Paul L. Morgan, George Farkas, and Steve Maczuga,
 "Which Instructional Practices Most Help First-Grade Students With and Without Mathematics Difficulties?,"
 Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis vol. 37 no. 2 (June 2015).

First-grade teachers in the United States may need to increase their use of teacher-directed instruction if they are to raise the mathematics achievement of students with MD.