A general educator's instructional adaptation for students with mathematics disability in standards-based mathematics instruction

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Kim, Sun A., 1971-

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The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), implemented in 1997 and updated in 2004, requires all students, including students with disabilities, to participate in and make progress in the general education curriculum. Under IDEA, students with disabilities, including students with mathematics disability (MD), are entitled to be provided with adapted instruction using empirically validated instructional approaches to teaching mathematics, which can help them succeed in general education classrooms. However, there is limited knowledge about whether and in what ways instruction is adapted for students with MD and the degree to which students with MD have access to the standards-based mathematics general education curriculum adopted by today's mathematics education. Thus, the purpose of this case study was to examine (a) a fourth-grade teacher's instructional adaptations for 3 students with MD in a standards-based mathematics, general education classroom and (b) the mathematics learning of 6 fourth-grade students with differing levels of ability (3 students identified MD, 2 students struggling with mathematics, and 1 student without a disability) in a standards-based mathematics, general education classroom. An embedded, single case study design (Yin, 2003) was employed to provide exploratory and instrumental information about the research topics of this study. Data were collected through case study methods including direct observations, interviews, survey, and document reviews for 12 weeks, December 2005 through March 2006. Analyses of data involved a descriptive statistics as well as a qualitative case analysis using data display matrices to drive emergent themes (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Strauss & Corbin, 1997; Yin, 2003). Seven themes emerged from the findings of this study: Four on the fourthgrade teacher's instructional adaptations for her students with MD in the standardsbased mathematics, general education classroom and three on the learning of students with differing abilities in this environment. The findings of this study indicated that the teacher endeavored to adapt her mathematics instruction for 3 students with MD using diverse components of effective mathematics instruction in standards-based mathematics curriculum and instruction, but that her instructional adaptations were implemented very restrictively in terms of the number of students with MD whose difficulties were addressed and the types of difficulties addressed by the adaptations. Possible factors inhibiting the teacher's instructional adaptations included the number of students who were struggling with mathematics in her class, including 3 students with MD. On the other hand, the findings of this study indicated that the quality and the quantity of learning of mathematics knowledge and skills were different across students with differing ability in the standards-based mathematics, general education classroom in terms of prerequisite skills, problem-solving accuracy, concept or procedures for problem solutions, and transfer of knowledge and skills. All the students with differing ability benefited to some degree from standards-based mathematics instruction, but the benefits of students with MD from this instructional environment were marginal in comparison to the benefits of their peers without disabilities. Alternative instructional methods should continue to be explored to maximize the benefits of students with MD in standards-based mathematics, general education classrooms, including more frequent integration of varied types of components of effective mathematics instruction into standards-based mathematics instruction and considering the cognitive, behavioral characteristics of students with MD. Limitations of this study and implications of this study for practices and future research were discussed.