A case study analysis of a mathematical problem-solving program
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Students must be good problem solvers in order to compete in today’s global economy. However, many students, including students with disabilities, do not have adequate problem-solving skills, thus eliminating potential job opportunities. In order to increase opportunities for problem-solving success, schools must find strategies that are effective and efficient for students to use and simulate real-world scenarios. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether a direct, cognitive-strategy, problem-solving program (Solve It!), which is designed to enhance student skills in word-problem solving, could increase the accuracy with which students with and without disabilities correctly solved word problems and whether it affected students beliefs about problem solving. The research questions developed for this study were (a) does the Solve It! method affect the math problem-solving achievement of Grade 6 students, and (b) what are teacher and student perceptions of the efficacy of the Solve It! method of teaching word-problem solving? A quantitative case study was used for this study to determine the efficacy of a specific cognitive instructional strategy with Grade 6 students. Participants in this study included 54 Grade 6 students, 7 with disabilities, from a middle school in Southwestern Colorado. Data were gathered from students through the use of pre- and posttests containing 10 word math problems. Students were also given short weekly quizzes to monitor progress and check for proper usage of the strategy. Finally, data were gathered from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) instrument, winter and spring testing periods, to investigate changes on the problem-solving strand of the mathematics test. Teacher interviews and student surveys were also used to gain deeper insight into the effectiveness of the strategy. From this analysis, conclusions were drawn to answer the research questions. Comparison of means showed that although the Solve It! strategy did not statistically significantly improve students’ mathematical problem-solving abilities on the standardized NWEA test, it did improve their scores in word-problem solving on the 10-item word-problem test. In addition, the students’ perceived self-efficacy to solve word problems increased.