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The Journal of Educational Research, 104:381395, 2011 Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0022-0671 print

/ 1940-0675 online DOI:10.1080/00220671.2010.487080

A Comparison of Two Mathematics Problem-Solving Strategies: Facilitate Algebra-Readiness


YAN PING XIN
Purdue University

AMANDA WHIPPLE
Northrop Grumman

DAKE ZHANG
Clemson University

LUO SI
Purdue University

JOO YOUNG PARK KINSEY TOM


Purdue University

ABSTRACT. The authors compared a conceptual modelbased problem-solving (COMPS) approach with a general heuristic instructional approach for teaching multiplicationdivision word-problem solving to elementary students with learning problems (LP). The results indicate that only the COMPS group signicantly improved, from pretests to posttests, their performance on the criterion test (that involves equal groups and multiplicative compare problems) and the prealgebra model expression test. The study results suggest that elementary students with LP can be expected to move beyond concrete operations and to algebraically represent mathematical relations in conceptual models that drive the solution plan for accurate problem solving. Keywords: algebra readiness, conceptual model, elementary school, instructional strategies, learning disabilities, mathematics, problem solving

ecently released, the nal report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) indicates that American students have not been succeeding in the mathematical part of their education at anything like a level expected of an international leader (p. xii). Although American students are struggling with many aspects of mathematics, the panel sees algebra as a central concern (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008, p. xiii). Interestingly, American students may enjoy school mathematics at the early elementary grades. However, they begin to experience difculty and to dislike mathematics after Grade 4, when learning becomes more abstract or symbolic and involves more algebraic thinking (Cai et al., 2004). According to the panel, mathematics achievement in the United States decreases signicantly in the late middle grades when students are expected to learn algebra, which raises the essential question: How students can be best pre-

pared for entry into algebra? (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008, p. xiii). No doubt, the panels report underscores the importance of algebra-readiness instruction. Indeed, algebra readiness has been characterized as serving a gate-keeping function for secondary and postsecondary education (Cai & Knuth, 2005; Maccini, McNaughton, & Ruhl, 1999). In fact, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has endorsed algebra as a K12 enterprise (Moses, 1997, p. 264) and set up the goal that all students, including those with special needs, learn algebra or succeed in high-level mathematics (NCTM, 2000). In line with the NCTM, the National Research Council (Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findell, 2001) called teachers to introduce basic algebraic concepts in early elementary grades to lay a foundation for algebra instruction in later years. Students should be taught to think algebraically before they are expected to be procient in manipulating algebraic symbols (Kilpatrick et al., 2001, p. 13). The good news is that elementary students, those with learning disabilities or problems (LP) in particular, are able to benet from experiences that prepare them for algebra readiness in their elementary mathematics learning (Carraher, Schliemann, Brizuela, & Earnest, 2006; Xin, 2008; Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008). In the next section, we characterize problem solving and word-problem solving as well as algebraic thinking in problem solving. Next, we briey review intervention research in word-problem solving with students with LP and then introduce a word-problem solving model that emphasizes algebraic thinking and readiness.

Address correspondence to Yan Ping Xin, Purdue University, Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and Education, Department of Educational Studies, 100 North University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2098, USA. (E-mail: yxin@purdue.edu)

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Algebra Thinking in Problem Solving Problem solving has been dened as higher order cognitive process that requires detecting steps or processes between the posing of the task and the answer (Goldin, 1982, p. 97). When information about the problem is presented as text rather than in mathematical notation, the problem becomes a word problem (Verschaffel, Greer, & De Corte, 2000). As word problems often involve a narrative or story, they are also called story problems (Moyer, Moyer, Sowder, & Threadgill-Sowder, 1984). Problem solving is a relevant and signicant perspective and context through which to introduce students to algebra (Bednarz & Janvier, 1996). Algebra is essentially a systematic way of expressing generality and abstraction (Kilpatrick et al., 2001, p. 256). In algebra, the focus is on expression or representation of relations (Carpenter, Levi, Franke, & Zeringue, 2005). Representation is one type of activity that involves algebraic thinking, through translating verbal information into symbolic expressions and equations, such as generating equations that represent quantitative problem situations in which one or more of the quantities are unknown (Kilpatrick et al., 2001, pp. 256257). Within the context of arithmetic problem solving, algebraic thinking involves the use of symbols to generalize certain kinds of arithmetic operations (Curcio & Schwartz, 1997, p. 296) and represent relations (Charbonneau, 1996). Word-Problem Solving Instruction for Students with LP Xin and Jitendra (1999) conducted a meta-analysis of 25 published and unpublished research studies to specically evaluate the effectiveness of word-problem solving strategy instruction for students with LP. Strategies investigated in the obtained published and unpublished studies included representation techniques (i.e., any procedure that permits the interpretation or representation of ideas or information given in a problem by using concrete manipulatives, verbal or linguistic training, pictorial diagramming, or schema-based mapping instruction), strategy training (i.e., any explicit problem-solving heuristic procedure involving direct instruction, and cognitive and metacognitive instruction), computer-aided instruction (CAI), and other strategies (e.g., keyword instruction, problem sequence instruction, attention only). Results of Xin and Jitendras meta-analysis indicated that representation techniques, especially those procedures emphasizing semantic structure understanding or schema knowledge-mediated diagramming, are more effective than other strategies (e.g., keyword instruction, sequential instruction only, metacognitive instruction only) to promote students mathematics problem-solving performance. In the past decade or so, schema-based instruction has shown potential benets in teaching mathematics problem solving to students with and without disabilities. Specically, researchers have investigated the effects

of schema-based instruction on teaching elementary arithmetic word-problem solving (e.g., Fuchs et al., 2008; Jitendra, Grifn, Deatline-Buchman, & Sczesniak, 2007; Jitendra et al., 1998) and transferring learned problem solution rules to novel problems (e.g., Fuchs et al., 2003; Fuchs, Fuchs, Finelli, Courey, & Hamlett, 2004). However, most of these studies focused on addition and subtraction word problem solving and emphasized decision making on the choice of operation (e.g., add or subtract) that was conned to specic word problem situations. Conceptual Model-Based Problem Solving Modeling involves translation or representation of authentic problems into mathematical expressions or models that include real objects, formulas, algebraic expressions, or algebraic representations. Mathematical models are an essential part of all areas of mathematics including arithmetic, and should be introduced to all age groups including elementary students (Mevarech & Kramarski, 2004). Contemporary approaches to story-problem solving have emphasized the conceptual understanding of the story problems before any solution attempts that involve selecting and applying an arithmetic operation for solution (Jonassen, 2003). Because problems with the same problem schema share a common underlying structure requiring similar solutions (Chen, 1999; Gick & Holyoak, 1983), it is suggested that students need to learn to understand the structure of the mathematical relationships in word problems and that students should exhibit this understanding through creating and working with meaningful representation of the structure (Brenner et al., 1997) or modeling (Hamson, 2003). The representations that model underlying problem structure facilitate solution planning and accurate problem solving. For instance, factorfactorproduct (or factor factor = product) is a generalizable conceptual model in multiplication and division arithmetic word problems where factor, factor, and product are the three basic elements. It should be noted that the three basic elements in the factorfactorproduct model have unique denotations when a specic problem subtype applies. For example, in an equal groups problem type (e.g., A school arranged a visit to the museum in Lafayette Town. It spent a total of $667 buying 23 tickets. How much did each ticket cost?), the cost of each ticket (the unknown) and the number of tickets bought are the two factors, whereas the total money spent is the product. In contrast, in a multiplicative compare problem (e.g., Cameron has 242 marbles. Isaac has 22 times as many marbles as Cameron. How many marbles does Isaac have?), the marbles that Cameron has and the multiple relation (i.e., 22 times when Isaac is compared with Cameron on the number of marbles they have) are the two factors, whereas the number of marbles Isaac has (the unknown) is the product. In short, a conceptual model that recognizes and reorganizes the deep structure of the problem (i.e., problem

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schemata) needs to be constructed before solution planning. More importantly, the conceptual model should drive the development of a solution plan that involves selecting and applying appropriate arithmetic operations. Building on contemporary approaches to story problem solving and to respond to the call for algebra readiness, Yan Ping Xin recently developed a conceptual model-based problem-solving (COMPS) approach that emphasizes prealgebraic conceptualization of mathematical relation to teach basic arithmetic word-problem solving to elementary students with LP (Xin, 2008; Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008). Unlike a rule-driven or arithmetic-oriented approach, COMPS requires expression of mathematics relation in a generalizable conceptual model (e.g., factorfactorproduct); it does not rely on solution rules to make decisions on choice of operation. Instead, the model expression directly drives the selection of the operation for solution. The results of preliminary studies that evaluated COMPS using single-subject design (Kazdin, 1982) indicate that there is a functional relationship between the intervention and students improved performance on researcher-designed criterion tests that involve simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems (e.g., Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008) and on problems involving irrelevant information or multiple steps (e.g., Xin & Zhang, 2009). The results also show that students improved their prealgebra concept and skills after the COMPS instruction.

Research Question 4: What were the differential effects of COMPS and GHI on a norm-referenced standardized measure? Method Design A pretestposttest, comparison group design with random assignment of participants to groups was used to examine the effects of the two word problem-solving instructional approaches: COMPS and GHI. Both groups also took a maintenance test 1 to 2 weeks following the termination of the intervention. Participants Participants included a group of 29 students with LP from two elementary schools in the midwestern United States. As not enough special education students were available in one school to satisfy the sample size requirement for this group comparison study, we had to recruit students from two elementary schools in the same school district. The average age of the students in the COMPS group was 10.32 years old (SD = 0.91) and 10.30 years old (SD = 0.86) for the GHI group. This included 16 students with learning disability (LD) or with other disabilities, and 13 were school-identied at risk for mathematics failure (e.g., failed the high-stake tests in mathematics). The special education eligibility criteria used by participating schools dene LD as a severe discrepancy between the students academic achievement and normal or near-normal potential. Of the six students who were identied as other disabilities, two were with communication disorders, two were with mild mental retardation, one was with attention decit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and one was orthopedically impaired. Specically, participant selection was based on (a) teacher identication of students experiencing substantial problems in mathematics word-problem solving and (b) scores of 70% or lower on the criterion test involving multiplication and division word-problem solving. To determine sample size, a power analysis using a Cronbachs alpha level of .05 and an effect size of .76 based on existing related research studies (e.g., Jitendra et al., 1998) was conducted, which indicated that a minimum of 14 participants in each group was sufcient to obtain a power of .90 for a 2 3 repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA; Friendly, 2000). Table 1 presents demographic information with respect to participants gender, grade, age, ethnicity, special education classication, IQ level, and standardized achievement scores in mathematics and reading. Dependent Measures Criterion word-problem solving tests. The equivalent forms of criterion tests used during pre- and postintervention

Purpose of the Study The purpose of the present study was to extend Xin, Wiles, and Lins (2008) and Xins (2008) studies, which employed single-subject designs. The single-subject design does not help clarify whether the study ndings are attributable to the specic nature of the COMPS instruction or the generally carefully designed small-group intensive instruction. Specically, the purpose of the present study was to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of two problem-solving instructional procedures, COMPS and a general heuristic instructional approach to problem solving (GHI) in teaching multiplication and division word problems to elementary students with LP. The study was designed to answer the following research questions: Research Question 1: What were the differential effects of COMPS and GHI on the criterion tests designed to assess student performance in solving multiplication and division word problems targeted in this study? Research Question 2: Did students maintain the acquired problem-solving skills following the termination of the intervention? Research Question 3: What were the differential effects of COMPS and GHI on the prealgebra test designed to assess students grasp of prealgebra concepts and skills?

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TABLE 1. Participating Student Demographics, by Condition COMPS group Variable Gender Male Female Grade 3 4 5 Age (months) Race EA AA Hispanic Multiracial Classication LD ADHD NL Other IQ Full scale Verbal Performance Achievement Mathematics PR Reading PR n 6 9 5 7 3 6 4 5 0 5 0 6 4 (2 CDs, I MiMH, 1 OI) 84.16 83.08 91.33 24.44 23.89 13.55 10.77 16.17 33 35.57 M SD n 6 8 4 6 4 6 1 6 1 5 1 7 1 MiMH 87.36 88.25 88.91 11.99 15.87 15.70 GHI group M SD

123.86

10.92

123.64

10.35

Note. LD = learning disability; ADHD = attention decit hyperactivity disorder; CD = communication disability; MiMH = mild mental disability; NL = not labeled; OI = orthopedically impaired; EA = European American; AA = African American; PR = percentile rank. IQ scores were obtained from the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for ChildrenFourth Edition (Wechsler, 2003). Achievement scores in mathematics and reading were obtained from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Test, or Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery Test of AchievementThird Edition (WJTAIII).

assessment were computer generated (Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008). Each test involved 12 multiplication and division word problems that represented a range of equal groups (EG) and multiplicative compare (MC) problems (Van de Walle, 2004). These criterion tests were designed in alignment with the NCTM (2000) standards, which emphasize varying construction of word problems for assessing conceptual understanding of mathematics problem solving (Cawley & Parmar, 2003). Table 2 presents sample problems to illustrate each variation. As shown in Table 2, the construction of each word-problem item was systematically varied in reference to the unknown position so that a range of word problems was represented. Parallel form reliability between two randomly selected forms was .84 for the sample in this study. Cronbachs Alpha of the criterion test was .86, and the testretest reliability was .93. Prealgebra tests. Because the COMPS approach (Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008) applied in this study emphasizes algebraic expression of mathematical relations in problem

representation, prealgebra tests were administered pre- and postintervention to both groups to examine whether the two groups were different on prealgebra concept and skill development. The prealgebra tests had two subtests: solve equations and model expression (Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008). The solve equations test included six items that required students to nd the value of an unknown quantity (i.e., letter a) that makes the equation true (e.g., 196 = a 28). Positions of the unknown were systematically varied across three terms in the equation (i.e., the multiplicand, multiplier, and product). The model expression test included ve items (e.g., Antoni has collected 84 autographs. He lled 14 pages in his new autograph album. Each page holds an equal number of autographs. Write an equation with a variable to model this problem.). These items were directly taken from the commercially published mathematics textbook being adopted by the participating schools (Maletsky, 2004). Cronbachs alpha was .70 for the solve equations test and .62 for the model expression test, and testretest reliability was .90 for the prealgebra test.

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TABLE 2. Sample Problems in Probes: MultiplicationDivision Problem type Equal groups Unit rate unknown Number of units (sets) unknown Product unknown Multiplicative compare Compared set unknown Referent set unknown Multiplier unknown Sample problem situations A school arranged a visit to the museum in Lafayette Town. It spent a total of $667 buying 23 tickets. How much does each ticket cost? There are a total of 575 students in Centennial Elementary School. If one classroom can hold 25 students, how many classrooms does the school need? Emily has a stamp collection book with a total of 27 pages, and each page can hold 13 stamps. If Emily lled up this collection book, how many stamps would she have? Isaac has 11 marbles. Cameron has 22 times as many marbles as Isaac. How many marbles does Cameron have? Gina has sent out 462 packages in the last week for the post ofce. Gina has sent out 21 times as many packages as her friend Dane. How many packages has Dane sent out? It rained 147 inches in New York one year. In Washington, DC, it only rained 21 inches during the same year. The amount of rain in New York is how many times the amount of rain in Washington, DC?

Note. It should be noted that MC problems in Table 2 only include those with multiple but NOT part relations such as 2/3 because the participants did not know operations with fractions during the intervention of this study. Problems presented in this table are derived from test materials in Xin et al. (2008) study.

KeyMath Revised Normative Update. The problemsolving subtest of the KeyMath Revised Normative Update (KeyMath-R/NU; Connolly, 1998) was administered before and after the intervention to evaluate the far transfer effect of the intervention on a standardized test. The KeyMath-R/NU is a norm-referenced, individually administered diagnostic test. The content meets the NCTM standards especially for primary school-age students. The KeyMath-R/NU provides two alternate forms, and requires little reading and writing. It has excellent internal consistency for subtests (e.g., .89 for the problem-solving subtest across the Grades 4 and 5) and total test (.98). Its alternate-form reliability for the problem-solving subtest ranged from .67 (grade scores) to .71 (age scores). Scoring The percentage of problems solved correctly was used as the dependent measure and calculated as the total points earned divided by the total possible points. Specically, items on the criterion word-problem solving tests were scored as correct, and 1 point was awarded if the correct answer was given. A half-point was given if only the mathematics sentence or equation was correctly set up and the answer was not correct due to calculation errors. Items on the prealgebra solve equations test were scored as correct and awarded 1 point if the numerical answer was correct. Items on the prealgebra model expression test were scored as correct and awarded 1 point if a correct model (or equation) was presented to express the mathematical relations of the given information in the problem. Three research assistants who were enrolled in the doctoral program

of special education scored all tests using an answer key. A graduate student who was unfamiliar with the purpose of the study rescored 33% of the tests. Interrater reliability was computed by dividing the number of agreements by the number of agreements and disagreements and multiplying by 100, which resulted in a median interrater reliability of 100% (range = 75100%).

Procedures A stratied random-sampling procedure based on students grade, gender, and pretest scores was used to assign students into the two conditions. Two research assistants (one with 1 year of regular education teaching experience and the other with 3 years of special education teaching experience) and two participating school teachers (one with 26 years of teaching experience and one with 16 years of teaching experience) volunteered to be the instructors for the two conditions. All instructors received two 1-hr training sessions on the two instructional strategies. Yan Ping Xin developed the teaching scripts that were studied by all of the instructors to prepare for teaching these lessons. The two research assistants taught the COMPS condition rst, and the two school teachers taught the GHI condition rst. To control for teacher effects, each pair of instructors (i.e., one research assistant and one school teacher at each school site) switched treatment groups midway through the intervention. It should be noted that despite the changes of the instructors, the students in the COMPS condition continued to receive the COMPS instruction and the students in the GHI condition continued to receive the GHI instruction. As

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such, there was no change in the type of instruction students were receiving in either the COMPS or GHI condition. Students in both conditions engaged in the assigned strategy learning three times a week, with each session lasting for approximately 3045 min (one school with 30 min and the other school with 45 min). The COMPS group received three sessions on introduction, six sessions each on EG and MC problem structure and problem solving, and three sessions on mixed review. Although students in the GHI group also received 18 sessions of instruction, they engaged in solving both types of problems in each session. Unlike the COMPS group, students in the GHI group did not receive instruction in recognizing the two different word-problem types (i.e., EG or MC). Students in both conditions solved the same number and type of problems. Calculators were allowed in both groups throughout the study to accommodate participants skills decits in calculation. COMPS Condition The research team designed a PowerPoint presentation (based on the teaching script developed by Yan Ping Xin) with animation for use during the intervention. Instructions for the COMPS condition was carried out in three phases: (a) the introduction session for the understanding of the concept of equal groups, (b) the instruction on EG and MC problem solving using the model-based problem-solving approach, and (c) mixed review for solving the EG and MC problems. During Phase II, instruction on EG and MC problem solving was delivered in two parts: model representation and problem-solving instruction. During model representation instruction, students learned to detect the problem type and to map mathematical relations onto respective conceptual model diagrams (see Figure 1 for conceptual model diagrams for EG and MC problem types) using story situations with no unknowns. The purpose of presenting story situations with no unknowns was to provide students with a complete representation of the mathematical relation in a specic problem type so that generalized mathematical relations in the model could be visualized. Model representation instruction was followed by problem-solving instruction. During problem-solving instruction, word problems with an unknown quantity were presented. Yan Ping Xin designed a four-step DOTS (DetectOrganizeTransformSolve) checklist (see Figure 2) to guide students problem-solving process. In step 1, students detect the problem type based on the problem structure they learned during model representation instruction. In step 2, students organize the information through representation of mathematical relations in conceptual model diagrams. Yan Ping Xin developed respective word-problem story grammar prompting cards (Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008) for the EG and MC problem types (critical features for EG and MC problems are described in next section) to guide students problem representation (see Figure 1). Students were allowed to use any letter they preferred to represent

the unknown quantity. In step 3, students transform the diagram to a meaningful mathematics equation by peeling off boxes and labels in the conceptual model diagram to make a true mathematics equation. In step 4, students solve for the unknown quantity through equation manipulations. In addition, students were asked to provide a complete answer to the problem and to check the answer to make sure it made sense. Word-problem story grammar questions (see Figure 1) were designed to facilitate understanding of word-problem story structure through identication of three key elements in each problem type. An EG problem describes a number of equal sets or units. The placement of the unknown can be on the unit rate (number of items in each unit or unit price), number of units or sets, or the product (see the three variations of EG problems in Table 2). An MC problem compares two quantities and involves a compare sentence that describes one quantity as a multiple or part of the other quantity. The placement of the unknown can be on the compared set, the referent unit, or the multiplier (see the three variations of MC problems in Table 2). Overall, the instruction was delivered through explicit strategy explanation and modeling, dynamic teacher student interaction, guided practice, performance monitoring with corrective feedback, and independent practice. During independent practice, students were provided with a six-item independent worksheet to solve one of the two problem types (i.e., EG or MC) they had just learned. It should be noted that the conceptual model diagrams were provided on all modeling, guided, or independent practice worksheets during the intervention. However, they were gradually faded out on the worksheets when students worked on solving mixed word-problem types and were not provided during postintervention assessment. GHI Condition The GHI was guided by a general heuristic vestep problem-solving checklist, SOLVE (SearchOrganize LookVisualizeEvaluate). SOLVE was taken from the participating schools enacted curriculum and teaching practice. SOLVE required students to (a) search for the question, (b) organize the information, (c) look for a strategy, (d) visualize and then work the problem (e.g., draw a picture, make a table, write an equation), and (e) evaluate the answer. For the rst step, search for the question, the instructor asked students to nd the question and then read the problem twice. Students took turns to read the problem aloud or the teacher read with the students together, and then the group discussed about what they were asked to solve to highlight the question. For the second step, organize the information, the instructor guided students to highlight the key words (e.g., times as in MC problems; each or per as in the EG problems). For the third step, look for a strategy, the instructor asked students to think about the best way to solve the problem and specically which operation to use.

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FIGURE 1. Conceptual models for (a) EG and (b) MC problem types (adapted from Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008).

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FIGURE 2. DOTS checklist (adapted from Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008; color gure available online).

For the fourth step, visualize and then work the problem, students were engaged in visualizing the problem situation. Students were also instructed that they could draw a picture (to describe the given information in the problem), make a table (to organize the given information), or write an equation or mathematics sentence. The instructor had the exibility to use multiple strategies (e.g., draw a picture or write a mathematics sentence or equation) in the teaching. It should be noted that PowerPoint presentations were also used in this condition. However, unlike the COMPS condition, GHI used the PowerPoint presentations to represent problem situations with concrete or semiconcrete pictures only, but not systematically introduce the EG and MC conceptual models as in the COMPS. For the last step, evaluate the answer, the instructor guided students to ask self-check questions, such as Did you answer the question?; Does your answer make sense?; and Did you label your answer? During the instruction, students were provided with the SOLVE checklist to facilitate their problem solving (see Figure 3). Distinction Between the Two Conditions The distinction between the two conditions was that COMPS provided students with a well-dened model (i.e., unit rate # of units = total or product for the EG type; or unit multiplier = product for the MC type) in which an algebraic expression of mathematical relation is emphasized. Further, the model expression served to drive the selection of the operation to solve for the unknown. In contrast, the GHI condition had the exibility of using multiple strategies, such as drawing concrete pictures to represent the problem = to set up a mathematics senor using tence. Although equations could also be used in the GHI group, students were asked to set up the mathematics sentence by lling in the numbers. That is, three elements or terms in the equation (i.e., factor, factor, product) were not

FIGURE 3. SOLVE checklist used in the GHI condition.

dened within specic problem contexts (i.e., unit rate # of units = total or product in EG problem situations; or unit multiplier = product in MC problem situations). Treatment Fidelity For each instructional condition, a checklist that contained critical instructional components was used to assess the instructors adherence to the assigned strategy instruction. 67% of the COMPS sessions and 67% of the GHI sessions across two schools were videotaped. A doctoral student in special education viewed the videos and evaluated the adherence of the instructors teaching to the assigned instructional strategy based on the components listed in the checklist by judging the presence or absence of each critical component. Treatment delity was calculated as total components present divided by the total possible components (which varied across conditions and problem types) in the checklist. Overall, delity was 100% for the GHI and 86% for the COMPS condition (range = 75%100%). On a few occasions, the instructors skipped the step, name the referent unit (benchmark) in the diagram, in solving the MC problems. Students were instructed to map the numbers into the diagram based on the relational statement in MC problems without naming the referent unit in the diagram. Results Pretreatment Group Equivalency Table 3 presents results on pre- and postintervention measures. Separate one-way ANOVAs were used to examine pretreatment group equivalency on criterion and transfer

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TABLE 3. Means and Standard Deviations, by Treatment Condition with Effect Sizes M Test Pretest (%) Posttest (%) Maintenance (%) Pre-SE (%) Post-SE (%) Pre-ME (%) Post-ME (%) Pre-KeyM (SS) Post-KeyM (SS) COMPS 23.86 83.57 80.77 19.64 74.86 2.14 51.79 8.64 10.50 GHI 42.31 67.93 65.69 27.75 74.83 11.15 28.69 9.31 10.69 COMPS 24.04 19.21 15.64 22.41 22.43 8.18 27.20 2.62 2.71 SD GHI 34.89 31.42 28.47 29.54 27.15 22.74 26.55 2.90 2.98 COMPS 14 14 15 14 14 14 14 14 14 n GHI 13 13 13 12 12 13 13 13 13 ES 0.6158 0.6006 0.6563 0.3092 0.0012 0.5272 0.8594 0.2429 0.0667

Note. Pretest, Posttest, Maintenance = pretest, posttest, maintenance test scores on the criterion tests; Pre-SE = solve equations pretest; Post-SE = solve equations posttest; Pre-ME = model expression pretest; Post-ME = model expression posttest; ES = effect size by Cohens d (calculated as the two conditions mean differences divided by the pooled standard deviation; a positive sign in ES indicates the effect favors the COMPS group and a negative sign indicates the effect favors the GHI group; Hedges & Olkin, 1985); Pre-KeyM = KeyMath-R/NU pretest; Post-KeyM = KeyMath-R/NU posttest; SS = scaled score.

assessments. Results indicated no statistically signicant difference between the two groups on either the criterion test, F(1, 27) = 2.003, p = .172; the prealgebra solve equations test, F(1, 26) = 0.558, p = .462; the prealgebra model expression test, F(1, 27) = 1.906, p = .179; and the KeyMath-R/NU, F(1, 27) = 0.295, p = .591, although the effect sizes seemed to favor the GHI group on all measures during the pretests (.616 on the criterion test, .309 on the solve equation test, .527 on the model expression test, and .243 on the KeyMath-R/NU problem-solving subtest). Acquisition and Maintenance Effects of Word-Problem Solving Instruction A 2 (group) 3 (time of testing: pretest, posttest, and maintenance test with the criterion test) ANOVA with a repeated measure on time was performed to assess the effects of instruction on students word-problem solving performance. It must be noted that two students (who moved out of the school district in the middle of the project) did not complete the post and maintenance criterion tests. As such, this analysis was based on the data for the 13 students in the GHI group and the 14 students in the COMPS group. Overall, the 2 3 ANOVA indicated a signicant main effect for time of testing, F(2, 50) = 27.145, p = .000, and there was no signicant main effect for group, F(1, 25) = 0.136, p = .715. More importantly, the results indicated a signicant interaction effect between group and time of testing, F(2, 50) = 4.499, p = .016 (Figure 4). Further post hoc analyses by paired-samples tests indicated that the COMPS group signicantly improved its performance (M percentage point difference = 59.71, SD = 32.57) from pretest to posttest, t(13) = 6.86, p = .000, and maintained the improvement (M percentage point difference = 2.96, SD = 18.81) from

posttest to maintenance test, t(13) = 0.59, p = .565. In contrast, the GHI group did not signicantly improve its performance from pretest to posttest (M percentage point difference = 25.62, SD = 46.35), t(12) = 1.993, p = .069, and its performance on the maintenance test was similar to its posttest performance (M percentage point difference = 2.23, SD = 23.94), t(12) = 0.337, p = .742. Betweengroup effect sizes were .601 on the posttest and .656 on the maintenance test, all favoring the COMPS condition (see Table 3). To further examine whether the COMPS group improved more than the GHI group following the intervention, we also used gain score as the measure to examine the group difference. With pretestposttest gain score as the measure,

FIGURE 4. COMPS (red) and GHI (blue) groups performance on the criterion tests across three times of testing (color gure available online).

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FIGURE 6. COMPS (red) and GHI (blue) groups performance on the far transfer measure (KeyMath-R/NU) during pretest and posttest (color gure available online).

FIGURE 5. COMPS (red) and GHI (blue) groups performance on two prealgebra measures, (a) solve equations and (b) model expression, during pretest and posttest (color gure available online).

results indicated a signicant group difference favoring the COMPS group, F(1, 25) = 4.950, p = .035; t(25) = 2.225, p = .035. The COMPS (gain score M = 0.5971, SD = 0.0870) improved more than the GHI group (gain score M = 0.2562, SD = 0.1285) with an effect size (ES) of 3.1067. Effects on Prealgebra Concept and Skills and a Standardized Measure Two (group) 2 (time of testing: pretest and posttest) ANOVAs with repeated measures on time were performed to examine the two groups performance on the prealgebra tests and the KeyMath-R/NU. For the prealgebra solve equations test, the analysis was based on 26 students who completed the pre- and posttests. Results indicated a main effect for time, F(1, 24) = 105.714, p = .000. The effects for the group, F(1, 24) = 0.219, p = .644, or interaction between group and time, F(1, 24) = 0.668, p = .422, were not signicant (see Figure 5a). For the prealgebra model expression test, the analysis was based on 27 students who completed the pre- and posttests. Results indicated a main effect of time, F(1, 25) = 37.039, p = .000, but no effect of group, F(1, 25) = .125, p = .299. There was a signicant interaction effect between group and time of testing, F(1, 25) = 8.459, p

= .008. A post hoc paired-samples test indicated that the COMPS group signicantly improved their performance from pretest to posttest (M percentage point difference = 49.64, SD = 27.09), t(13) = 6.856, p = .000, whereas the GHI group did not signicantly improve their performance from pretest to posttest (M percentage point difference = 17.54, SD = 30.26), t(12) = 2.089, p = .059 (see Figure 5b). Between-group effect size was .859 during the posttest, favoring the COMPS condition (see Table 3). To further examine whether the COMPS group improved more than the GHI group on the prealgebra model expression test following the intervention, we also used gain score as the measure to examine the group difference. With pretestposttest gain score as the measure, results indicated a signicant group difference favoring the COMPS group, t(25) = 2.908, p = .008. The students in the COMPS group (gain score M = 0.4964, SD = 0.2709) improved more than the students in the GHI group (gain score M = 0.1754, SD = 0.3026). Finally, results on the standardized test (KeyMath-R/NU) indicated a main effect of time F(1, 25) = 23.062, p = .000, but no main effects of group, F(1, 25) = 0.175, p = .679, or interaction between group and time, F(1, 25) = 0.49, p = .49 (see Figure 6) with an ES of 1.1178. Discussion The purpose of the present study was to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of COMPS and the GHI in teaching multiplication and division word problems to elementary students with LP. Overall, the results indicated that the COMPS group improved signicantly more than the GHI group from pre- to posttest on the criterion tests following the respective intervention. Both groups of students maintained their posttest performance 1 to 2 weeks following the termination of the instruction. In addition, the results indicated that the COMPS group improved signicantly more than the GHI group from pre- to posttest on the prealgebra model

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expression test. Results also indicated that there was no signicant difference between groups on their improvement from pre- to posttest on the far transfer measure, a normreferenced diagnostic assessment in mathematics problem solving. Effect on the Criterion Tests Results showed that the COMPS group improved signicantly more than the GHI group from pre- to posttest on the criterion word problem-solving tests. These ndings support and extend previous research regarding the effectiveness of the COMPS instruction in solving arithmetic word problems (e.g., Xin, 2008; Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008). It seems that elementary school students with LP benet from conceptual model expression of mathematical relationships, which served to drive the solution plan including selection of operation. Examination of students work during the pretests indicated that some students applied addition or subtraction across the board. Some students seemed to apply an operation based on the size of the number. That is, if a big number was given, then division might be used; if two small numbers were given, multiplication might be applied. A few students were able to solve rate times quantity problems (i.e., an EG problem with product as the unknown); some students were able to solve fair share problems (i.e., an EG problem with unit rate as the unknown). None of the students were able to solve the MC problems with the reference unit as the unknown. Overall, it seemed that students relied on guess and check (according to the size of the numbers given in the problems) in making decisions on the choice of the operation. Clearly, there were no precise mathematical models guiding their problem solving. This observation is supported by existing literature in mathematics education. That is, students might select an operation based on syntactical or surface clues (Greer, 1992, p. 285) to produce an answer for the solution. Building on ndings from researchers such as Sowder (1988), Greer (1992) insightfully summarized possible problem-solving strategies used by students:
Look at the numbers; they will tell you which operations to use. Try all the operations and choose the most reasonable answer. Look for key words or phrases to tell which operation to use. (p. 285)

In contrast, examination of students work during the posttest revealed that all students (except for two students in the posttest and three in the maintenance test) used algebraic equations to express the relationship before solving for the unknown (Figure 7 presents student sample work before and after the intervention). Two of the three students who did not use the model expression before attempting to nd a solution were reported constantly absent from the program. The COMPS strategy emphasizes conceptual understanding and expression of the mathematical relation in an equation. Focusing on relationships between elements

FIGURE 7. Student sample work before (a) and after the COMPS intervention (b and c).

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of the problem (rather than key word or surface clues for operation selection and procedures for calculating the answers) may not only improve students skills in arithmetic, but also provide them with the foundation for access to algebra (Carpenter et al., 2005). The more individuals pay attention to the meaning or mathematical relation, the closer the connection between arithmetic and algebra becomes (Carpenter et al., 2005). As the model expression in COMPS drives the selection of an operation, the COMPS strategy does not merely instruct the learner in what to do, but helps the learner to understand why individuals do what they do. It facilitates efcient and generalizable problem-solving skills. That is, choice of the operation (multiplication or division) for solving various multiplication and division word problems is derived from a single generalized algebraic expression, factor factor = product. Specically, for EG problem solving, when the product or total is the unknown, the EG model expression (i.e., unit rate number of units = product or total) tells that multiplying the two factors (i.e., number of units and unit rate) gives the solution for the unknown product. When the unit rate or number of units is the unknown, the expression (i.e., number of units unit rate = product or total) tells that dividing the product by one known factor may solve for the unknown factor. For MC problem solving, when the compared set or the product is the unknown, the MC model expression (i.e., referent unit multiplier = compared or product) tells that multiplying two factors (referent unit and multiplier) solves for the compared quantity or product. When the referent unit or multiplier is the unknown, the model expression tells that dividing the product by the one known factor solves for the unknown. As such, there is no ambiguity about the algorithm to use to solve for the unknown. Students do not need to rely on key or cue words to gamble on the operation or to remember solution rules to gure out the choice of operation. Effect on the Prealgebraic Tests The results of this study showed that the COMPS group improved signicantly more than the GHI group on the prealgebra model expression test. Because the COMPS strategy emphasizes algebraic expression of multiplicative relations in the multiplication and division word problems, it makes sense that students in the COMPS group improved signicantly more (i.e., a mean percentage point increase of 49.64 from pretest to posttest) than the GHI group (i.e., a mean percentage point increase of 17.54) on the prealgebra model expression test following the intervention. The results of this study supported and extended existing studies in teaching model expression (Xin, 2008; Xin, Jitendra, & Deatline-Buchman, 2005; Xin, Wiles, & Lin, 2008). Elementary students with LP can be expected to move beyond concrete operations and to think symbolically or algebraically. Algebraic conceptualization of mathematical

relations and problem solving can be taught through explicit and systematic strategy instruction. Traditionally, teaching for understanding has seemed to involve concrete object manipulations or representations that are away from symbolic formalisms (Sherin, 2001, p. 524). However, the use of symbolic expressions can involve signicant understanding because students mapping of information in the mathematical model (e.g., factor factor = product) is based on conceptual understanding of the three elements involved and the relations among them (i.e., unit rate # of units = total or product as in EG problems; or unit multiplier = product as in MC problems). The COMPS strategy, which promotes algebraic expression of mathematical relations in arithmetic wordproblem solving, may facilitate algebra readiness as promoted by NCTM (2000) and the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008). As for the solve equations test, as both groups used the factor factor = product model to set up the equation and solve for the unknown variable in the equation, it was expected that students in both groups would improve their performance from pretest to posttest on the solve equations test. This might be an explanation for the nonsignicant group difference when an ANOVA was conducted on the solve equations test. Effect on the Far Transfer Measure On the standardized diagnostic test (KeyMath-R/NU), although it appeared that the COMPS group improved more than the GHI group from pretest to posttest, the improvement was relatively small and the difference between groups was not signicant. Careful examination of the problemsolving subtest of KeyMath-R/NU indicated that only four (22%) of 18 items were related to the problem types included in this study (i.e., EG problem type). Most of the problems in the KeyMath-R/NU problem-solving subtest are addition and subtraction. This might have contributed to the nonsignicant results obtained on this measure. Limitations and Directions for Future Research First, the present study may be limited because the two comparison groups showed a slight difference in demographic characteristics, although there were no statistically signicant differences on the pretest performance. For example, the students in the comparison condition (GHI) had higher percentile ranks in reading and mathematics achievement based on their school record on norm-referenced assessments. No doubt, reading comprehension contributes to mathematical word problem-solving skills. This seemed to be evidenced by participating students pretest scores across all measures (see Table 3). Nevertheless, following the intervention, the COMPS group outperformed the GHI group on all measures. As indicated in the Method section, the

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COMPS and the GHI students were accommodated when they experienced difculties in reading the problems (i.e., the problems were read to them). Future researchers may need to make an effort to control for participants reading ability, as this may serve as a confounding variable. By controlling participants reading ability variable, the results of the COMPS condition may be even better than what was found in this study, as reading ability involves not only decoding skills (which was accommodated by reading the problems to the students) but also comprehension skills. Second, the treatment delity of the COMPS condition was only 86%, compared with 100% for the GHI condition. It is important that the treatment was implemented as intended. As the COMPS approach was new to all the instructors, in few occasions, the instructors skipped an important component (name the referent unit [benchmark] in the diagram) in their MC problem-solving instruction. It is reasonable to hypothesize that if the COMPS instruction were fully adhered to the intended curriculum, the performance of the COMPS group would be even better than what was found in this study. Future researchers need to make sure that the instructors are trained to mastery to ensure the treatment delity and therefore reduce possible confounding variables. Third, the study was limited in that the GHI condition was allowed to use multiple strategies. One of the strategies occasionally used by the GHI was lling the number in the equation. When this was the choice of the strategy, the instructor also had to teach students how to solve for the unknown in the equation. This may explain nding no difference on the measure of solve equations. Future researchers may compare COMPS with only one strategy so that the distinction between the conditions can be pinpointed. Fourth, this study was also limited by having students solve problems with clear EG and MC problem structure only. Future researchers should extend the problem pools to include more complex real-world problems (problems with irrelevant information or multiple steps) to facilitate skill transfer. Future researchers may also enhance the COMPS intervention program by including student problem posing based on the model in addition to problem solving to promote the students construction of the concept of unit rate and number of units. It was found that at the end of the present study that a few students were still confused about the quantity of unit rate and number of unites when representing the problem in the model equation; however, it did not affect their solutions when they switched the two factors in the model equation due to the commutative property of multiplication. Collaborating with colleagues in mathematics education (Ron Tzur) and computer science (Luo Si), we are presently developing a computerized modeling system for nurturing students multiplicative reasoning (Xin, Tzur, & Si, 2008; supported by the National Science Foundation). Advanced computer science technology will be used to model students thinking on the basis of what students know and provide the tasks that is within students zone of proximal development

(Vygotsky, 1978). Advanced computer science technology will be used to facilitate not only representations of mathematical relations in a problem but also differentiated instruction that is tailored to individual students learning proles. Implications for Practice Multiplication is one of the most important concepts that children develop progressively throughout their mathematics education years (Harel & Confrey, 1994). A key difference between additive and multiplicative reasoning is that in the former, the same units are combined (12 apples + 3 apples = 15 apples), whereas in the latter one unit is distributed over a second unit to create a third unit (e.g., 12 apples/basket 3 baskets = 36 apples). One difcult part in teaching the multiplicative conceptual model is the concept of unit rate (e.g., 12 apples/basket). To solve EG problems in this study, students were guided to identify the three essential quantities in an EG problem and to represent them in the model equation (unit rate # of units = total or product). However, the conception of unit rate was not as concrete or obvious as we had expected with the population included in this study. Visual representation of the unit rate and number of units pertinent to concrete problem situation would be helpful for studies to establish the connection between the concrete and the abstract concept. Instead of telling students, 12 is the unit rate because each basket holds 12 apples, we used a PowerPoint animation in this study to represent the concrete problem situation along with the abstract model equation so that students could make sense from the abstract model. To conclude, students in the COMPS condition improved signicantly more than the GHI group following the intervention. The GHI group did not signicantly improve their performance following the general heuristic approach in which three elements (i.e., factor, factor, and product) were not delineated in the conceptual model and the relation among them was not made explicit. The present study supported research in special education in that students with LP learn better when the strategy is explicitly taught and when conceptual understanding is the focus. With systematic instruction, students with LP are able to think algebraically through representation in the conceptual model, which serves to drive the solution plan for accurate problem solving.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This research was partially supported by Synergy Grant from College of Education at Purdue University and by Grant 0749462 from the National Science Foundation. The authors would like to thank the administrators, teachers, and students at Edgelea and Miami Elementary Schools who facilitated this study. The authors also thank Casey Hord for proofreading the earlier draft of this article.

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AUTHORS NOTE Yan Ping Xin is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Purdue University. Her current research interests include effective instructional strategies in mathematics problem solving with students with learning disabilities and difculties, conceptual model-based problem solving, and algebra readiness.

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Dake Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Clemson University. Her current research interests include mathematics learning disabilities and scientic reasoning of students with disabilities. Joo Young Park is a PhD student in special education at Purdue University. Kinsey Tom is a PhD student in special education at Purdue University.

Amanda Whipple received a masters degree in human resource management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. She is currently working as a metrics and reporting analyst for Northrop Grumman and uses her talents in education to tutor at-risk students in Los Angeles. Luo Si is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Purdue University.

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