Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Enhancing First-Grade Children's Mathematical Development with Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Enhancing First-Grade Children's Mathematical Development with Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a dyadic peer-mediated treatment, Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), on first-grade children's mathematics development. Within schools, 20 classrooms were assigned randomly to PALS or no-PALS groups. Teachers implemented PALS three times each week for 16 weeks. Treatment fidelity was measured with direct observation; teachers completed questionnaires about treatment effectiveness and feasibility; and 323 students were pre- and post-tested. Effects were separated for low-, average-, and high-achievers, and effect sizes and the percentage of nonresponders for 18 students with disabilities were calculated. Results indicated that treatment implementation was strong; teachers judged PALS to be effective and generally feasible; and students with and without disabilities, at all points along the achievement continuum, benefited from PALS. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

**********

In the United States, mathematics difficulties are widespread. In the 1997 International Evaluation of Education Achievement (Stedman, 1997), for example, eighth graders performed more than 2 years below high-scoring countries. For many children, mathematics deficits begin early. In fact, by the end of kindergarten, the distribution of mathematical development in typical public school classrooms spans more than four grade levels (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Karns, 2001), with many children, especially those from high-poverty backgrounds, demonstrating large deficits in their mathematical thinking and skills (Griffin, Case, & Siegler, 1994). These early performance deficits are strongly associated with long-term mathematics failure (Griffin & Case, 1997). This is unfortunate because mathematics competence is important for success in school. Moreover, statistical analyses show that mathematics competence accounts for employment, income, and work productivity even after IQ and reading achievement have been explained (Rivera -Batiz, 1992).

The challenge, therefore, is to help teachers effectively address their students' various mathematics needs early in school, before the mathematics curriculum, which is hierarchical in nature, increases in scope and difficulty. One promising approach for addressing a classroom of students with heterogeneous skill development is peer-mediated instruction. With peer-mediated instruction, teachers pair students to work intensively on structured activities that are appropriate to individual needs. Prior work on ClassWide Peer Tutoring (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1989) documents the potential for peer-mediated instruction conducted on math facts in first grade to produce strong and lasting effects through the primary grades.

The purpose of the current study was to extend that work to a more comprehensive first-grade mathematics curriculum, including math concepts and procedures, using Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, or PALS. Results of a systematic program of research (e.g., Fuchs et al., 1997; Fuchs, Fuchs, Phillips, Hamlett, & Karns, 1995) has documented PALS efficacy on a comprehensive mathematics curriculum in Grades 2 throuh 6 for students with disabilities as well as for classmates without disabilities and with varying achievement histories. Nevertheless, dyadic learning structures, such as those used within PALS, have been used only sporadically with children as young as 5 and 6 years of age. For example, Ames and Murray (1982) and Silverman and Stone (1972) showed that young children earn better-than-expected scores when they work constructively with peers. Fuchs et al. (2001) documented that kindergarten children could work productively to enhance reading readiness. Grounding for such findings comes from sociocognitiv e theory, which, based on the work of Piaget (1928), posits that internal cognitive conflict arises when children express alternative perspectives. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.