It utilizes methods that are currently common and expanding in many American K-12 schools, including: using a Response to Intervention (RTI) framework, building student engagement and motivation, and incorporating technology to assist with instruction. The timing of this study is significant in that it is targeting students in grades 6, 7, and 8 during the 2016-17 academic year. Students in this age group began their educational careers prior to the implementation of the Common Core standards. Therefore, their math foundation most likely did not prepare them adequately for the increased challenges they now must tackle in their math classrooms. American public schools currently share the unfortunate experience of attempt to patch the holes in the foundation of older students after and during the implementation of new standards.
This study will attempt to aid them in doing so by adding to the sparse but growing literature base on effective math intervention approaches at the secondary level. To provide context for the current situation facing students and schools regarding math instruction and skill gap remediation, the current chapter will outline the United States’ recent past and present struggles with increasing math achievement at the K-12 level. First, this chapter will examine the background of math instruction in the United States, and discuss why efforts to improve it are important to such a wide range of stakeholders. This section will incorporate a focus on the significance of middle school math in the scope of the K-12 mathematical sequence and the role middle schools play in preparing students for both upper level math coursework and lifetime career potential. Next, this chapter will delve into the history behind and present state of RTI frameworks and their role in boosting student achievement; it will particularly examine the expansion of RTI into both the secondary level and into mathematics skill remediation.
It will then delve into a review of existing research related to intervention implementations, including: the effectiveness of secondary math interventions, computer-assisted instruction, the role of dosage in intervention approaches. Finally, the current chapter will review research on the important relationship between declining motivation in math during early adolescence and the effectiveness of mastery goals in improving student achievement. Literature Selection and Review Initial searches for topics of interest to this study were cumbersome and did not always yield a large number of relevant results. After finding a small number of strong articles, I employed a “snowball” technique that moved in two ways. First, in any strong article, I thoroughly examined and read relevant sources in that article’s citations. Secondly, and very fruitfully, I used Google Scholar to check articles that had cited the high-quality articles I had previously found.
Both of these methods led me to find strong articles that expanded my research base exponentially. A growing focus on improving math achievement in the United States A sustained focus on the United States’ K-12 curricular needs in mathematics began in the 1950s with the launch of the University of Illinois School Mathematics Program, which attempted to strengthen American math education (UICSM Staff, 1957). These efforts and others led to the “New Math” movement and the surrounding debates in the 1960s, and the “Back to the Basics” movement in the late 1970s (Dossey, McCrone & Halverson, 2016). The release of the First International Mathematics Study (Husén, 1967) brought an initial research focus to the discussion, and built national awareness in the United States that K-12 mathematics students there were not on par with their peers in other countries. This generated concern with the American public over the nation’s economic competitiveness in global markets (e.g. Hechinger, 1967).
In 1980, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released the report An Agenda for Action: Recommendations for School Mathematics of the 80s, which made eight recommendations for improving both school mathematics curriculum and instruction (NCTM, 1980). The release set the stage for a proactive era of professional input to the reform of mathematics education in the United States that continues to the present. The Agenda for Action outlined eight actions aimed to improve school mathematics with these recommendations: Problem solving should be the focus of school mathematics; Basic skills in mathematics should be expanded beyond computational ability; Mathematics programs should take full advantage of calculators and computers at all grade levels;
Stringent standards of both effectiveness and efficiency should be applied to the teaching of mathematics; The success of mathematics programs and student learning should be elevated to a wider range of measures than conventional testing; More mathematics study should be required for all students, and a flexible curriculum with a greater range of options should be designed to accommodate the diverse student needs; Mathematics teachers should demand of themselves and their colleagues a high level of professionalism; Public support for mathematics instruction should be raised to a level commensurate with the importance of mathematical understanding to individuals and society (NCTM, 1980). These recommendations for action echoed national dissatisfaction at the time with the outcomes of schooling, and a national divide over the teaching of basic facts versus problem solving and the use of technology in the classroom (Dossey et al., 2016).
Two key reports released in 1983 echoed the need for action expressed by the NCTM: A Nation at Risk, released by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE, 1983), and Educating Americans for the 21st Century, released by the National Science Board’s Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology (National Science Board, 1983). Both reports generated national media attention and launched movement toward standards for the mathematics education community, which culminated in 1989 with the NCTM release of Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989). From this release through 2007, NCTM continued to broaden their school mathematics standards to include instruction, teacher education, and assessment.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) extended its reporting during this time to include state-by-state reports on students’ mathematical achievement. And while the 1990s and 2000s saw the adoption, adaptation, and implementation of the NCTM Standards into U.S. classrooms, adherence at a national level remained elusive (Dossey et al., 2016). The 2000 release by NCTM of another landmark publication, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics extended the Council’s earlier curriculum standards efforts. Their publication coincided with the release of the results of the Third International Mathematics Study by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), which did not give positive reviews to the state of mathematics curricula in the United States (Mullis et al., 2000). States had developed their own mathematical standards, but they did not appear to be meeting the needs of America students. A multitude of researchers and organizations continued to investigate the state of math in the United States and how to strengthen it.