The Clark County School District is the fifth-largest school district in the United States. Incorporating Las Vegas and surrounding communities, the district includes over 300,000 students. In the 2012–2013 school year, 43.4% of students were identified as Hispanic, 30.2% identified as White, 12% as African American, 6.6% Asian, and 7.8% other. More than 16% of students in the district are English Learners.
MATH 180 is an intervention program for middle school students struggling with the foundational mathematics skills they need to build to be successful with algebra. MATH 180 consists of 2 courses, each with 9 instructional blocks. The current study examines the efficacy of Course I, which focuses on key foundational concepts, such as multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and real numbers. The program has both teacher-led instruction and a software component. MATH 180 classes are 45–50 minutes long and meet five days a week. Students spend the first five minutes of class time working on and then discussing a Do Now problem. Next, students are divided into two groups. One group receives approximately 20 minutes of instruction directly from their teacher while the other group works through instruction at their own pace on the MATH 180 software. After about 20 minutes, the two groups switch. Class size can range but should not exceed 20 students per class.
Four middle schools in the district participated in the study. Two schools were assigned as the non-MATH 180 (control) schools and two schools served as the MATH 180 (treatment) group. In the treatment schools, MATH 180 replaced the previous mathematics intervention program. The non-MATH 180 schools continued providing mathematics intervention as they had previously. Specifically, the non-MATH 180 schools used ALEKS^{®} or First in Math^{®} for mathematics intervention. At both the non-MATH 180 and the MATH 180 schools, the mathematics intervention class was taught in addition to the students’ core grade-level math class. Teachers at the treatment schools received monthly coaching in MATH 180 from Math Solutions^{®} coaches.
Students were in Grades 6–8 during the 2014–2015 school year. All participants were selected by their school as being in need of mathematics intervention. The treatment group consisted of 97 students from two schools who used MATH 180 for one school year. Thirty-five percent of MATH 180 participants were female and 65% of participants were male. Forty percent of MATH 180 students were White, 30% Hispanic, 12% African American, 13% multiracial, 3% Asian, and 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The comparison group consisted of 90 students from two schools who used the mathematics intervention program that the school had previously used; ALEKS or First in Math. Forty-six percent of students in the comparison group were female and 54% were male. Fourteen percent of the comparison students were White, 48% Hispanic, 23% African American, 11% multiracial, 2% Asian, and 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. For all students, the mathematics intervention class was in addition to their daily grade-level mathematics course.
The MATH 180 software program records students’ progress and time spent on the program. There are several zones within the software which include the Explore Zone, Learn Zone, Success Zone, and Brain Arcade. Much of the time spent in the program tends to be in the Learn Zone where students independently and actively practice and master math concepts. The program is organized into 9 blocks. Each block contains 3 topics and each topic contains 2–3 lessons. Students complete these lessons along with simulations in the Explore Zone, games in the Brain Arcade, and a game-based assessment at the end of each block called the Success Zone. The software records students’ performance in addition to time spent on each lesson and in each area of the program. All of this information is captured in SAM Central for the teacher and district leaders to review.
HMH Math Inventory^{®} is a computer adaptive test (CAT) for levels K–Algebra II. During the 30- to 50-minute assessment, students encounter 25 to 45 questions. The program delivers questions targeted to the student’s current achievement level and bases the delivery of the next question on his or her response, eventually narrowing down to a final estimate of the student’s level of math achievement. The Math Inventory scores are given as Quantile^{®} measures (Q) and can be used to determine whether MATH 180 is the appropriate intervention program for a student. It can also be used to inform instruction and help teachers understand how much students have grown since previous administrations of the test. The Math Inventory can be used separately from MATH 180 but is also included with the program. Students in this study completed two administrations (pre and post) of The Math Inventory assessment. The mean number of days between tests was 202 and 210 for the MATH 180 and non-MATH 180 students, respectively.
The MATH 180 software tracks student progress and completion. Students in this study engaged in 23 to 123 sessions of MATH 180. On average, students engaged in 75 sessions of MATH 180. Over the course of the 2014–2015 school year during these sessions, students spent an average of nearly 23 hours on the MATH 180 software. Students spent most of this time, nearly 14 hours, in the Learn Zone. In comparison, on average, students spent around 3 hours and 45 minutes in the Brain Arcade, 3 hours in the Success Zone, and nearly 2-and-a-half hours in the Explore Zone.
Each of the 9 blocks of software instruction contains 3 topics. Students in this study completed between 3 and 27 topics, meaning that some students completed 1 block of software instruction and others finished all 9 blocks of instruction. Six students completed all 9 blocks of MATH 180 software instruction. Just over half of all students (53.9%) completed 13 topics, meaning that most students were about halfway through the software instruction when the school year ended.
Students in both the MATH 180 and non-MATH 180 groups had similar starting scores on the The Math Inventory assessment, which indicates they were similar with respect to their prior math achievement. MATH 180 students achieved an average score of 463 Quantile measures and }non-MATH 180 students an average score of 447 Quantile measures in the fall (see Figure 1). This difference was not statistically significant. After using MATH 180 for one school year, students achieved an average spring score of 587 for an average growth of 124Q. Students from the non-MATH 180 group who used a different intervention program obtained an average spring score of 482 for an average growth of 35Q. The difference in growth was statistically significant with an effect size of .45 using Cohen’s d.
In order for an intervention program to have some effect, there is an expectation that students actually use the program. As described above, there was a significant amount of variability in terms of progress students made in the software component of the program. In order to investigate the effect of program engagement, the sample of MATH 180 students was divided into two relatively equal groups based on the number of topics completed by this group of students. The first group, referred to as low engagement, represented those that completed less than half the average number of topics (fewer than 13 topics). The second group, referred to as high engagement, completed at least half the average number of software topics (13 or more topics). Figure 2 summarizes the growth for the students in each of these two conditions. Student who completed the average number of topics or greater gained an average of 192 Quantile measures as compared to only 51 Quantile measures for students who completed less than half the average number of topics. As stated previously, there was no statistical difference between the two groups’ initial fall Math Inventory scores.
Both groups of students attended school in the same district and were roughly equivalent in terms of their prior levels of math achievement. Although it is difficult to attribute a change in levels of academic achievement to one program, students who used MATH 180 tended to experience significantly greater growth on The Math Inventory over students who were enrolled in different mathematics intervention programs.
The MATH 180 students who participated in this study spent most of their software time in the Learn Zone, working through MATH 180 lessons. This is fairly typical for the program. In terms of progress through the software, students also completed an average of 13 topics. Although this is roughly half the content in the software, students were able to derive some benefit from that exposure. When outcomes were investigated by relative level of software completion, the influence of exposure to the program became more evident. Students who completed a greater number of topics were more likely to demonstrate significantly greater growth. Therefore, it is important to account for the variability in program progress or implementation when viewing outcomes attributed to the program.
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