Algebraic Interventions for Measured Achievement
Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education
WestEd researchers are conducting an experimental trial testing the efficacy of an intervention curriculum targeting specific algebraic learning trouble spots.
Algebraic Interventions for Measured Achievement (AIMA) is an intervention curriculum addressing low achievement in algebra by using accepted research on how people learn.
AIMA provides learning experiences that reinforce, refresh, or re-teach important concepts introduced in the classroom. The curriculum focuses on key "trouble spots" in algebra that typically cause difficulty either because students lack prerequisites or they have misunderstood the content, or because the material is complex and students need more time and practice with the topic.
The critical need for algebraic interventions, especially for populations of students with poor performance in mathematics, motivated WestEd staff to initiate AIMA.
Through this project, WestEd researchers developed a curriculum that targets particular trouble spots in middle school and high school algebra and supports the lowest achieving students to enhance their mathematics understanding.
The AIMA curriculum comprises six print-based modules: Signed Number Operations, Variables and Expressions, Proportional Reasoning, Patterns, The Coordinate Plane, and Inequalities. Using knowledge from research on learning mathematics, researchers constructed AIMA to both support students who are learning challenging algebra and to model effective instruction to support teachers expanding their repertoire for teaching algebra.
This study is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). IES funded a new grant to develop six more intervention modules that will expand the current AIMA materials to a full-year curriculum (referred to as AIMA-FY). This more comprehensive curriculum addresses a wider range of difficulties that students encounter when learning algebra.
This study investigates the following research question:
- Does student usage of the AIMA curriculum materials result in greater improvements in algebra performance than use of the regular classroom curriculum?
This experimental trial was conducted in middle schools and high schools in California serving a high percentage of minority students, students in poverty, and English learners. Students and instructors (credentialed teachers) were randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions.
Having students serve as the unit of assignment significantly enhances the statistical power of the study, while randomly assigning instructors to condition accounts for the confounding of teaching effectiveness and curriculum content.
Each curricular unit was tested at approximately 18 sites. Both intervention and control students were exposed to the same curricular content.
Across experiments, student assignments to the control or experimental condition reversed, such that the intervention group in the first curriculum unit evaluation served as the control group in the second curriculum evaluation, and vice versa for the control group in the first curriculum unit evaluation. This procedure helps ensure that curriculum unit evaluations are independent of one another and reduces the number of students that are needed in the study.
The primary achievement outcome measures include 25-item performance assessments aligned with the content taught in each of the specific modules, based on released items from national and state assessments.
Preliminary and key findings will be made available following the study completion date.