A recent meta-analysis evaluated the effectiveness of interventions for elementary students with math difficulties. To be included in the review, studies had to use randomized or quasi-experimental designs and evaluate word-problem solving interventions.
A total of 52 studies were included in the review. Overall, results showed a significant positive effect for mathematics outcomes (ES = +1.01), with a high variability suggesting the presence of factors influencing the effect. By analyzing these factors, the results showed a larger effect when the students involved had only math difficulties (ES = +1.04) compared to both math and reading difficulties (ES = +0.66). When the intervention was delivered in large groups (more than 8 students), the effect was larger than for one-to-one or small-groups (ES = +1.41, +0.86, respectively). Intensive interventions (3 to 5 times a week) were more effective than interventions implemented one or two times weekly (ES = +1.15, +0.76, respectively). A difference was also found for instructional model: interventions involving general heuristics were more effective than the ones based on schema-based instruction (ES = +1.18, +0.71, respectively).
The overall effect was also influenced by methodological factors that should be considered. When only researchers delivered the intervention, the effect was higher compared to researchers plus school personnel as interventionists (ES = +1.23, +1.08, respectively). However, only interventions delivered by school personnel are easily replicable in regular school settings. Furthermore, when the effect was assessed with a measure developed by the researchers (ES = + 1.17) the effect was almost double than when measured by standardized tests (ES = + 0.59). The measure type is one of the most influential methodological factors in this meta-analysis together with group assignment and year of publication.
For more on methodological factors to consider, an earlier BEiB article discusses the effects of research design on effect sizes.
Myers, J. A., Witzel, B. S., Powerll, S. R., Li, H., Pigott, T. D., Xin, Y. P., Hughes, E. M. (2022). A meta-analysis of mathematics word-problem solving interventions for elementary students who evidence mathematics difficulties. Review of Educational Research, First Published Online. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543211070049