Academic journal article Australian Mathematics Teacher

The BASICS Intervention Mathematics Program for At-Risk Students

Academic journal article Australian Mathematics Teacher

The BASICS Intervention Mathematics Program for At-Risk Students

Article excerpt


The "BASICS" or "Building Accuracy and Speed In Core Skills" Mathematics Intervention Program has been designed to enable students who are either low-achievers or have some form of learning disability, to attain real improvement and make the successful transition to core mathematics. The literature was reviewed to identify a collection of specific needs and deficiencies that these groups of students have historically exhibited in the mathematics classroom. Common issues identified through the review of the literature included the; use of inefficient and/or error-prone approaches; time-consuming mental computations; and a focus on simple mundane tasks in lieu of higher-order cognitive tasks (Bezuk & Cegelka, 1995; Pegg & Graham, 2007). The BASIC Intervention Program was designed to address these issues through a significant focus on improving the automaticity and accuracy of the recall of basic mathematical facts, rules, concepts and procedures. By improving automaticity and accuracy, we are negating the greatest impediments to increasing these students' opportunity for success. Consequently, the purpose of the program is to reverse the cycle of continual low-academic performance for these students, at the same time, equipping them with the essential tools to gain success and achieve their potential in mathematics now and into the future. The ultimate aim is to increase the likelihood that these students can attain success in secondary mathematics, which will facilitate a more successful transition to post-school life. The structure of this program, its pedagogical strategies and assessment devices has been significantly influenced by the QuickSmart Program developed at the SiMERR National Centre at the University of New England.

Theoretical framework

The focus on both the accuracy and speed of recall of basic mathematical skills and concepts is designed to rectify the influential roadblocks to higher-order thinking, which are related to cognitive capacity and time (Graham, Pegg, Bellert & Thomas; Pegg & Graham, 2007). To start with, all students have a limited cognitive capacity, which means the amount of information that can be processed by their working memory is limited (Pegg & Graham, 2007). If a student's information retrieval skills and /or processing speed of sub-tasks are inefficient, their working memory reaches its cognitive limit. Consequently, this restricts their ability to progress through the task (Pegg & Graham, 2007). By increasing automaticity the time taken for a student to perform subtasks is decreased, which frees up their working memory. This enables students to move through the task with greater efficiency, ultimately reach a solution quicker and with more time and cognitive resources available to tackle higher-order tasks (Graham et al., 2004).

At-risk students

Students with learning disabilities or those with a history of low-achievement are the target group of this intervention project. Low-achieving students are typically students who: consistently achieve significantly low performance on standardised tests; perform poorly in in-class summative assessment; are placed in remedial mathematics classes; and have no formally assessed learning disability (Baker, Gersten & Lee, 2002). On the other hand, students who are classed as having a "learning disability" are derived from three broad categories, namely those students with: identifiable disabilities and impairments; learning difficulties not attributed to disabilities or impairments; and difficulties due to socio-economic, cultural, or linguistic disadvantage (Westwood, 2003). For the purpose of this project, when dealing with aspects directly related to both groups of students, they will be referred to as "at-risk students."

At-risk students who have difficulties in mathematics tend to use time-consuming, inefficient, and/or error prone strategies to solve simple calculations. …

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