# Using Explicit Vocabulary Instruction to Support Word-problem Solving for Students with Math Difficulty

## Location

Session 2: Room 106

## Start Date

24-2-2023 11:00 AM

## End Date

24-2-2023 11:50 AM

## First Presenter's Brief Biography

Elizabeth Stevens, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Learning Sciences at Georgia State University. Stevens completed her doctoral degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds a master’s degree in special education from the College of William and Mary and a reading specialist degree from the University of Virginia. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, she taught special education for nine years in Virginia. Elizabeth has coordinated large-scale research projects at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at UT Austin. She recently served as Co-Principal Investigator of an IES-funded Development and Innovation Project, Middle School Matters, focused on developing a PD model to support middle school teachers with implementing research-based practices during content-area reading instruction. Stevens researches effective reading and mathematics interventions for students with learning disabilities and learning difficulties. She is particularly interested in the effects of aligning Tier 1 (core) instruction with Tier 2 intervention for upper elementary students with reading comprehension difficulties. She is also interested in the effects of vocabulary instruction on the word-problem performance of upper elementary students with mathematics difficulty. Stevens has extensive experience in designing literacy interventions for diverse and at-risk populations, providing PD to districts, and examining the effects of such interventions and PD through high quality research studies. Stevens has published in numerous journals including Scientific Studies of Reading, Exceptional Children, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Reading and Writing, Remedial and Special Education, and Teaching Exceptional Children.

## Presentation Type

Concurrent Session

## Abstract

Do your elementary students have difficulty understanding the language in word problems (e.g., *fewer*, *more than*, *some* vs. *sum*)? Learn how to boost students' word-problem solving by explicitly teaching word-problem vocabulary (NOT keywords).

Note: This presentation is a continuation of the word-problem schema information presented by the same authors.

## Conference Strands

Content Area Math

## Description

Elementary students require proficiency in word-problem solving in order to meet grade level standards. Word-problem solving is exceedingly difficult for students with mathematics difficulty (MD), and these students perform significantly lower than peers without MD (Fuchs et al., 2007). Fortunately, recent research indicates that schema instruction (i.e., a specific problem type) improves word-problem solving for students with MD (Powell et al., 2015). However, schema instruction does not address difficult language and vocabulary in word problems. Students must understand vocabulary terms and phrases (e.g., fewer, less, ‘how many more?’) and how these terms relate to the word-problem schema. Sometimes practitioners teach students to solve word problems using key words (e.g., more means you should add); this is problematic because students tie operations to words without considering the schema. For example: Pablo has 12 pencils and Leah has 7. How many more pencils does Pablo have than Leah? This problem requires an understanding of the schema (difference) and the vocabulary and language in the word problem (‘how many more’) to find the difference. Students need to integrate math vocabulary and word-problem schema knowledge to successfully solve complex, language-heavy word problems. The authors recently used a randomized-control trial (Stevens et al., 2022) in which 75 third-grade students with math difficulty were randomly assigned to one of the following conditions: (1) word-problem solving intervention plus vocabulary instruction (WP+V), (2) word-problem solving intervention alone (WP-only), or a (3) business-as-usual group (BAU). Students in the intervention groups received 22 intervention lessons provided virtually four times per week across 5-7 weeks. All students were pretested and posttested on WP solving and math vocabulary. On a WP vocabulary measure, the WP+V condition significantly outperformed the WP-only (ES = 0.43) and BAU (ES = 0.83) conditions. On a WP measure, the WP+V condition outperformed the WP-only (ES = 0.08) and BAU conditions (ES = 0.43), although these were not statistically significant. The results of this study suggest promise for embedding explicit vocabulary instruction within WP solving schema instruction to boost students’ WP performance. This instruction may help students understand how to integrate math vocabulary and word-problem schema knowledge to successfully solve complex, language-heavy WPs. There are three goals for this session. Participants will (1) identify important words that students need to know to understand the problem (e.g., ‘more’ versus ‘how many more’) and (2) explain the steps for explicitly teaching mathematics vocabulary using a vocabulary map, and (3) practice teaching using a sample vocabulary map. This approach supports vocabulary knowledge and conceptual understanding but does NOT teach students to tie words to operations (e.g., ‘more’ means you should add). Note: This presentation is a continuation of the word-problem schema instruction presentation by the same authors.

## Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Using Explicit Vocabulary Instruction to Support Word-problem Solving for Students with Math Difficulty

Session 2: Room 106

Do your elementary students have difficulty understanding the language in word problems (e.g., *fewer*, *more than*, *some* vs. *sum*)? Learn how to boost students' word-problem solving by explicitly teaching word-problem vocabulary (NOT keywords).

Note: This presentation is a continuation of the word-problem schema information presented by the same authors.

## Comments

Note: This presentation is a continuation of the word-problem schema instruction presentation by the same authors.