1. Allie Huyghe
  2. Assistant DIrector
  4. SERP Institute
  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
  1. Kelly McGinn
  2. Assistant Professor
  4. Temple University
  1. Laura Young
  2. Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  4. Temple University

MathByExample: Dislodging Misconceptions Before They Take Root


2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

The SERP Institute 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 strategically designed to target common misconceptions and errors. This IES-funded research and development project is rooted in partnership work that started over a decade ago aimed at improving student learning and reducing the achievement gap in Algebra 1. 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—alternating with problems to solve. Despite being “light-touch”, the Algebra assignments had a surprisingly powerful impact and have been downloaded worldwide. Results demonstrated even bigger improvements with students at the lowest end of the performance distribution, and student responses revealed that many misconceptions were rooted in earlier grades. Thus, the team shifted focus and applied the same approach to fourth and fifth grade mathematics content. Results from a randomized controlled trial in five districts show similarly positive results in upper elementary grades. But even more exciting might be the ramifications of making a fictitious student’s error the focal point: engaging students in analyzing and critiquing the reasoning of others—a goal of 21st century standards, learning from those errors, and, perhaps most importantly, changing the perception of making mistakes in math class. By strengthening students’ foundational mathematics understanding, 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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