Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Investigation of the Look-Ask-Pick Mnemonic to Improve Fraction Skills

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Investigation of the Look-Ask-Pick Mnemonic to Improve Fraction Skills

Article excerpt


The current study evaluated the effects of the Look-Ask-Pick (LAP) mnemonic on the addition and subtraction of fraction skills of 3 general education sixth graders. Following identification of fraction skill deficits, participants were taught to add and subtract fractions with like denominators, unlike denominators where one divides evenly into the other, and unlike denominators where one does not divide evenly into the other. Using a concurrent multiple baseline across participants design, results indicated increases in both percent problems correct and digits correct per minute for all participants during the LAP intervention. Gains were also sustained at 3-week maintenance. Results are discussed in terms of extending previous LAP mnemonic usage.

KEYWORDS: Fractions, Mnemonics, Mathematics, General Education Students

As the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA, 2004) places emphasis on the assessment of student response to research-based interventions, school-based professionals are increasingly tasked with identifying empirically based techniques for varied academic skill deficits, including mathematics. Although the general pace of math research has increased recently, most studies target basic computation abilities of elementary-aged children (Mac-cini, Mulcahy, & Wilson, 2007), with less empirical attention paid to higher-level, conceptual skills such as fractions. According to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP, 2008), half of all middle school and high school students struggle with fraction knowledge taught in elementary grades, with at least 40% of middle school students lacking a foundational understanding of fraction-related concepts. Based on such high levels of fraction-specific difficulty, the identification of effective instruction procedures designed to improve fraction skills of at-risk students is important.

Fractions are foundational for a variety of higher-level math concepts including probabilities, proportions, ratios, and algebra (Brown & Quinn, 2007; Butler, Miller, Crehan, Babbitt, & Pierce, 2003). Frequently viewed as some of the most challenging topics taught in school with competence often not gained until high school (Siegler et al., 2012), fractions are considered by the NMAP (2008) as necessary prerequisites for workforce participation. Given their importance in both academic and real-world situations, it is not surprising that fractions have received extensive coverage in the recent Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). According to the Common Core, an understanding of fractions as numbers should begin in grade 3, with students being proficient in adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators in grade 4, unlike denominators in grade 5, followed by multiplication and division of fractions in grade 6.

Although understanding fractions is of foundational importance for continued success in mathematics (NMAP, 2008), relatively few studies have directly investigated techniques to improve fraction performance (Maccini et al., 2007; Templeton, Neel, & Blood, 2008) and surprisingly few interventions exist for students struggling with these concepts. As an example, in a recent review of fraction-specific research, Misquitta (2011) located only 10 studies published from 1990 to 2008, with eight of these being group design studies and only two employing single-case design methodology. Such low numbers indicate a lack of relevant fraction research; additionally, eight of the published studies were conducted with students who had an identified academic or emotional/behavioral disability rather than those without a disability in general education. Although the importance of targeting those with a disability label (e.g., learning disability, intellectual disability, emotional disability) is clear, fraction-specific research should also target general education students who are currently struggling and at risk for future math difficulties in an attempt to remediate current concerns and to prevent future difficulty. …

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