Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

Do We Need a Special Intervention Program for Children with Mathematical Learning Disabilities or Is Private Tutoring sufficient?/Brauchen Wir ein Spezielles Interventionsprogramm Für Rechenschwache Kinder Oder Ist Nachhilfe Genug?

Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

Do We Need a Special Intervention Program for Children with Mathematical Learning Disabilities or Is Private Tutoring sufficient?/Brauchen Wir ein Spezielles Interventionsprogramm Für Rechenschwache Kinder Oder Ist Nachhilfe Genug?

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Mathematical learning disabilities (MLD) are defined by the impairment of the acquisition of arithmetic skills (Gersten, Jordan, & Flojo, 2005). Recent studies reported prevalence rates about 3-6% of all children throughout various countries (e.g., Hein, Bzufka, & Neumärker, 2000; Lewis, Hitch, & Walker, 1994; Mazzocco & Myers, 2003; Shalev, Auerbach, Manor, & Gross-Tsur, 2000). Typically, these studies use a discrepancy criterion specified by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) published by the WHO (2005).

Longitudinal studies proved MLD to be quite stable over time as long as no intervention is applied (Jordan, Hanich, & Kaplan, 2003; Geary, Hoard, & Hamson, 1999; Shalev, Manor, Auerbach, & Gross-Tsur, 1998). Presumably, the ongoing mathematical deficits will affect school outcomes and everyday activities, such as handling money, negatively (McCloskey, 2007). Considering this, the demand for numeracy intervention programs becomes evident. Intervention studies are often limited to specific domains of school mathematics, only cover a relatively short intervention period, and usually apply to early school grades. Learning mathematics, however, requires the mastering of a whole set of different competencies. Besides this, measures often cover single mathematical domains (such as word-problems) only, and some do not contain grade norms at all. Therefore, these measures do not allow for conclusions about the degree of improvement in the sense of the mathematical functioning level as a whole. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effectiveness of the Waterglass Intervention Program (WIP), a program designed to enable children to catch up with their grade level of mathematics so that they would no longer be diagnosed with MLD.

1.1 Characteristic deficits of mathematical learning disabilities and their remediation

Children with MLD suffer from specific deficits and show several core symptoms. These cover procedural as well as conceptual knowledge. Many children with MLD show difficulties with counting and counting strategies (e.g., Geary, Bow-Thomas, & Yao, 1992; Geary, Hoard, Byrd-Craven, Nugent, & Numtee, 2007) even at preschool age (e.g., Aunóla, Leskinen, Lerkkanen, & Nurmi, 2004), and many remain with immature counting principles (e.g., Geary et al., 1999; Geary et al., 2007). Some children with MLD also fail to make the transition from counting to memory-based arithmetic fact retrieval (e.g., Geary et ah, 2007; Jordan et ah, 2003; Jordan & Montani, 1997). This aspect outlines the most frequently referred to deficit (e.g., Geary, 1993; Geary & Hoard, 2001; Shalev & Gross-Tsur, 2001). When trying to solve simple arithmetic problems by retrieving the answer from memory, children with MLD usually commit more errors and take more time (Geary, 1993; Gross-Tsur, Manor, & Shalev, 1996). For solving calculation problems, they use counting more often than children with average achievement (e.g., Geary, 1990; Geary, Brown, & Samaranayake, 1991), and results often differ from the correct answer by one (Domahs, Krinzinger, & Willmes, 2008). Gaupp, Zoelch, and Schumann-Hengsteler (2004) reported difficulties with the denominational number system even in children with MLD of the third and fourth grade. Furthermore, children with MLD proved to have difficulties with mathematical word-problem tasks (e.g., Case, Harris, & Graham, 1992; Swanson & Sachse-Lee, 2001).

These results reveal that children with MLD show a wide range of deficits so that in most cases they will need support in more than one domain. As mentioned above, previous intervention studies have examined intervention effects of several mathematical domains addressing children with MLD. For example, Fuchs et al. (2010) applied an intervention program on strategic counting instruction to thirdgrade students with MLD. Compared to a non-tutored control group, students who attended the program for the duration of 16 weeks with 3 sessions per week showed higher fluency on number combination skills (simple arithmetic problems). …

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