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Kun Min Rhee, Ed. D.
In Seo Kim, M.S.
There is evidence indicating that many students with learning disabilities lack basic math skills (Cawley & Miller, 1989; Garnett, 1992). Considering the power of computer technology, every effort must be made to provide effective and efficient math instruction for students with learning disabilities so that they can advance to higher-level math and increase their self-confidence. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of hypermedia-based math instruction (Whole Number Math) in learning basic whole number addition. As computer technology becomes more sophisticated and more available to school systems, educators must take full advantage of the technology by providing technology-based learning opportunities for students. This study compared the math performance of students using hypermedia-based math instruction with the levels of performance they had achieved through traditional math instruction.
This study addressed a single research question: Can hypermedia-based math instruction teach basic whole number addition skills to children with learning disabilities in math?
Mastropieri, Scruggs, and Shiah (1991) reviewed 30 research studies related to the provision of mathematics instruction for students with learning disabilities. Their findings document the effectiveness of behavioral interventions (e.g., use of manipulatives and pictures) and cognitive interventions (e.g., self-instruction) for teaching computation and problem-solving skills. Using manipulatives and pictures, various studies used a three sequence strategy, concrete, representational, and abstract, to teach place values (Mercer & Miller, 1992; Miller & Mercer, 1993; Peterson, Mercer, & O'Shea, 1988) to students with math disabilities. At the concrete level, the concept of place value was taught using three dimensional objects. At the representational level, pictorial presentations were used. At the abstract level, only numbers were used. The results showed that students who received the three sequence strategy outperformed students who received traditional instruction using numbers only.
A new development within the field of computer aided instruction called multimedia/hypermedia learning technology is popular at the present time (Boone & Higgins, 1992). Hypermedia is an information environment that provides a structure for gathering and arranging data (Babbitt, 1993). The basic concept of nonsequential, computer-based information retrieval was first introduced more than 50 years ago (Bush, 1945). However, people began to use it only recently, due to the rapid advances in computer technology over the last two decades. Boone and Higgins (1992) defined hypermedia as "... computer-based texts that are read in a non-linear fashion and organized on multiple dimensions that includes graphics, digitized speech, music, or video segments" (pp. 3-4).
The participants chosen for this study were six students with learning disabilities. The participants were selected on the basis of the following criteria: (a) age between 7 and 9 years (i.e., 1st thru 4th grade); (b) identified as having learning disabilities (LD) in mathematics on their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs); (c) an absence of behavior problems that would significantly interfere with their performance; (d) physically capable of working on computers and able to use paper and pencil for writing; and (e) a score of 75 percent or less on a screening test comprised of single (e.g., 3+4=?) and double digit (e.g., 12+3=?, 15+15=?) whole number addition problems.
The study was conducted in a vacant classroom at the participants' school that was equipped with a single hypermedia workstation (see Appratus below). Each participant worked with the principal investigator in one-to-one computer-aided instruction. The computer was set up on a table with sufficient room for the keyboard, the mouse, the speakers, the monitor, and the concrete materials (i.e., dice on a tray). The pencil-and-paper posttests were administered in another location in the room to ensure that the hypermedia workstation did not distract the participants when they were taking the tests.
The hypermedia workstation included (a) a Power Macintosh 9500 microcomputer system with 32 -megabytes of random access memory, (b) a super VGA color monitor, (c) a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, (d) a 1.0 gigabyte hard disk drive, (e) a pair of speakers, (f) a keyboard, (g) a mouse, (h) a mouse pad, (i) a joystick, (j) a quickcam camera, (k) and a CD-ROM drive.
The Whole Number Math program used in the study is a hypermedia-based math instructional software program designed to teach addition skills on computers. A bread cutting board was modified into a tray to accommodate the concrete level materials used in the CRBA strategy. The primary purpose of the board was to help the students learn that each column could contain only 9 dice. If he/she had more than 9, he/she would need to trade ten Ones for one Ten.
The study was conducted over a 7 week period with an average of 5 sessions per week per student; the number sessions per student ranged from a low of 26 to a high of 36. Each student worked alone during the hypermedia-based instruction with the principal investigator seated next to the subject. The program taught the students how to calculate whole number addition problems using an adaptation of the Concrete-Representational-Abstract method developed by Miller and Mercer (1993). In addition to the CRA strategy, bridging steps were used to link the representational and abstract levels.
A single-subject multiple probe design across individuals (Barlow & Hersen, 1984; Tawney & Gast, 1984) was used to assess the effectiveness of the hypermedia-based math instruction on arithmetic achievement in addition.
A stable baseline was obtained for all six students. The levels and trends were improved after the introduction of the intervention for all six students, and there were no overlaps in the range of the data points between the two conditions (i.e., baseline and post-intervention). A functional relationship was established since the dependent variable (math achievement) systematically changed as a result of the independent variable (hypermedia-based math instruction). Thus, the hypermedia-based math instruction did have a significant effect on the children's learning of addition skills compared to the traditional math instruction that they had previously received.
The results of this study support the hypothesis that hypermedia-based math instruction can improve the whole number addition skills of students with learning disabilities. The percentage of problems completed correctly increased for all six students when the hypermedia-based math instruction was introduced. In addition, their performances were maintained at 100% following the withdrawal of the intervention. All six students learned to solve whole number addition problems that they were less able or unable to solve prior to the intervention.
Babbitt, B. C. (1993). Hypermedia: Making the mathematics connection. Intervention in School and Clinic, 28 (5), 294-301.
Barlow, D. H., & Hersen, M. (1984). Single case experimental designs: Strategies for studies behavior change (2nd. ed.). New York: Pergamon.
Boone, R., & Higgins, K. (1992). Multimedia: TAM Topical Guide #1. Reston: Technology and Media Division, Council for Exceptional Children.
Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. Atlantic Monthly, 176, 101-108.
Cawley, J. F., & Miller, J. H. (1989). Cross-sectional comparisons of the mathematical performance of children with learning disabilities: Are we on the right track toward comprehensive programming? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22 (4), 250-254, 259.
Garnett, K. (1992). Developing fluency with basic number facts: Intervention for students with learning disabilities, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 7, 210-216.
Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T. E., & Shiah, S. (1991). Mathematics instruction for learning disabled students: A review of research. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 6, 89-98.
Mercer, C. D., & Miller, S. P. (1992). Teaching students with learning problems in math to acquire understand, and apply basic math facts. Remedial and Special Education, 13(3), 19-35, 61.
Miller, S. P., & Mercer, C. D. (1993). Using data to learn about concrete-semiconcrete-abstract instruction for students with math disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 8(2), 89-96.
Peterson, S. K., Mercer, C. D., & O'Shea, L. (1988). Teaching learning disabled students place value using the concrete to abstract sequence. Learning Disabilities Research, 4 (1), 52-56.
Tawney, H., & Gast, D. (1984). Single subject research in special education. Columbus, OH: Merill.
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