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An SRI team studied how young children with and without learning disabilities think about and learn important concepts in mathematics.
Students with learning disabilities are among those most likely to have difficulties in mathematics, so knowledge of how such students learn and ways to meaningfully assess their math performance would be useful. In the project, Learning Progressions: Developing an Embedded Formative and Summative Assessment System to Assess and Improve Learning Outcomes for Elementary and Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities in Mathematics, SRI and collaborators developed and validated a formative and summative classroom system for evaluating and promoting conceptual understanding of pre-algebra constructs for students with mathematics learning disabilities.
Drawing on key principles of the BEAR Assessment System, SRI and its collaborators developed a learning progression of how students with math learning disabilities learn constructs important to number sense and operations for whole numbers. Tasks and items were then developed to assess students’ knowledge and understanding relative to the learning progression. To ensure high-quality evidence, the team iteratively measured qualitatively and quantitatively the reliability and validity of the assessment.
The assessment system developed will be a powerful tool for teachers to monitor student knowledge and progress, meaningfully interpret evidence about student learning (including what students know and do not know about the target constructs), and use formative data to adjust subsequent instruction. Although developed specifically to include students with learning disabilities in math, the system will be useful to all those who seek ways to assess and enhance students’ conceptual understanding of early foundational math.