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The Effects of a Paraphrasing Intervention on Word Problem Solving Accuracy of English Learners at Risk for Mathematic Disabilities

  • Author(s): Kong, Jennifer Eun Re
  • Advisor(s): Swanson, Lee
  • et al.

Mathematical word problems require complex processes beyond basic math skills, such as the use of linguistic information, identifying relevant information, and constructing the appropriate problem statement (Fuchs et al., 2006; Swanson, 2006). English learners (ELs) in particular may experience more difficulty with math problem solving because of the need to preserve information while at the same time processing information in a second language (Swanson, Kehler, & Jerman, 2010). In light of the significance of math problem solving to children’s mathematical achievement, research to identify effective instructional strategies for problem solving is critical. Few studies have investigated the effectiveness of a word problem solving intervention for students who are both ELs and at risk for mathematic disabilities (MD). Paraphrasing intervention has been found to be an effective intervention towards improving problem solving accuracy with monolingual children (e.g., Moran, Swanson, Gerber, & Fung, 2014), but its application to children learning a second language has not been tested. This study aims to fill this gap in research by utilizing a multiple baseline design to assess the effectiveness of a paraphrasing intervention on the problem solving performance for 9 third grade students who are ELs and at risk for MD. This study also investigated the extent to which the paraphrasing intervention facilitated transfer to calculation and reading comprehension measures. Tau-U effect sizes were calculated to determine improvement between baseline and intervention phases, as well as positive trends during the intervention phase. In general, positive gains occurred as a function of the treatment condition, supporting the hypothesis that paraphrasing word problem solving intervention improved students’ one- and two-step word-problem solving skills. However, the magnitude of the effect sizes was in the low to moderate range on the targeted measures. The magnitude of the effect sizes were small for the transfer measures, suggesting that the paraphrasing intervention had minimal influence on transfer to calculation and reading comprehension measures. The results suggest that although positive effects in problem solving accuracy can occur with EL children, further research is necessary to identify more robust intervention procedures.

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