Can conquering fractions lead to algebra success?
Education researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller earns largest single-year grant in SMU history
DALLAS (SMU) – Renowned mathematics researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Texas Instruments Endowed Chair in Education in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been awarded the largest single-year research award in SMU history.
The nearly $8 million research award from the U.S. Department of Education will allow her team to adapt for use through grade 8 a program originally developed for fourth-graders. The intervention is aimed at helping better prepare students for high school algebra – the “make-or-break” prerequisite for higher math studies that students need for college and/or STEM careers.
The grant will support randomized controlled trials across two states among students in grades 4-8 to determine the effectiveness of a program called “Fraction Face-Off.” The trials will measure success among a diverse group of students experiencing math difficulties across urban, suburban and rural geographies, and will include comparisons between in-person and virtual training of interventionists.
“Many students experience difficulty with fractions in elementary school and then continue to have difficulty as they move through middle school,” said Ketterlin Geller. “When they start algebra, this difficulty becomes increasingly problematic because proficiency in fractions is highly related to algebraic readiness.”
Fraction Face-Off has shown evidence of effectiveness at Grade 4. But Ketterlin Geller points out that the original studies were done with smaller samples in one geographic region of the country.
“We seek to extend this original research with much larger diverse populations in two different states,” she said. “We will then test the effectiveness of this intervention for students in upper elementary and middle schools who need more intensive instructional support to be ready for algebra.”
Ketterlin Geller is director of Research in Mathematics Education in the Simmons School. Her research is informed by her previous experience in K-12 education, having taught high school science in public schools and trained as a K-12 administrator. If the research team is able to demonstrate effectiveness with a larger, more diverse group, Ketterlin Geller said, she hopes usage of the program will expand and student outcomes will improve.
Ketterlin Geller and SMU will take the lead in working with investigators from the American Institute for Research, University of Texas – Austin and University of Missouri. The $7.99 million award for research over a five-year period will be processed this fiscal year.
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