1. Allie Huyghe
  2. Assistant DIrector
  4. Strategic Education Research Partnership
  1. Julie Booth
  2. https://education.temple.edu/faculty/julie-l-booth-phd
  3. Associate Dean, Associate Professor of Math Education and Educational Psychology
  5. Temple University

MathByExample: Dislodging Misconceptions Before They Take Root


2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) partnered with Temple University Professor Julie Booth and teachers from several school districts to develop and test “MathByExample”—a set of math assignments for 4th and 5th grade students aimed at preventing the development of common misconceptions. This IES-funded research and development project is rooted in work begun a decade ago when a SERP partnership team was formed to respond to a request by district leaders in the Minority Student Achievement Network for support in narrowing the achievement gap in Algebra 1. They asked for a solution that could be incorporated into the regular classroom without singling out minority students and that did not require a whole new curriculum. AlgebraByExample was collaboratively developed to address the problem within the districts' constraint. Drawing on the research literature, assignments were designed with correct and incorrect “worked examples”—problems that have solutions worked out and marked as right or wrong—interleaved with problems to solve. Students respond to prompts for explanation of the correct or incorrect strategy. Despite the minimal change required by teachers, the intervention had a surprisingly powerful impact. AlgebraByExample students made substantially greater gains than peers in the control condition and, unlike many other improvement strategies, gains were greatest for students at the bottom of the performance distribution. Analysis of student responses revealed that many misconceptions have their roots in earlier grades. Thus, MathByExample was developed for younger students mimicking the AlgebraByExample approach. Preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial in five districts show similarly positive results. By strengthening students’ foundational mathematics understanding in 4th and 5th grades, teachers in higher-level mathematics courses will be freed to focus on the grade-level content, increasing the opportunity for more students to succeed in higher level mathematics.

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