The Institute of Education Sciences has awarded University of Texas at Austin professor Diane Pedrotty Bryant a $1.5 million grant to develop mathematics modules designed to improve low-performing students' algebra readiness.
"Several studies show that success in algebra coursework is linked to increased achievement in secondary and postsecondary education and to higher paying jobs," said Bryant, a special education professor in the College of Education and Fellow in the Audrey Rogers Myers Centennial Professorship in Education. "Algebra is a particularly difficult challenge for students who exhibit persistently low mathematics performance. To realize success in algebra, a student needs prerequisite background mathematics knowledge, and many of our struggling students don't have that."
The grant, called Project AIM, will be used to create algebra-readiness intervention modules (AIMs) for sixth- and seventh-graders. Twenty-four intervention teachers in Texas and Missouri and about 500 sixth- and seventh-graders who scored below the 25th percentile on a mathematics universal screening tool will participate in the project.
"Students face rigorous curriculum standards and graduation requirements that demand mastery of algebra content knowledge," said Bryant, who is director of the Mathematics Institute for Learning Disabilities and Difficulties, located in the College of Education's Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. "Unfortunately, limited conceptual understanding of pre-algebra math impedes success in algebra coursework, which in turn contributes to difficulty passing exit exams."
During the first two years of the three-year grant, Bryant and her colleagues will conduct learning trials and feasibility studies at middle schools in Texas and Missouri. Research teams will develop and refine interventions based on how the lessons are influencing students' learning outcomes. Student performance as well as student and teacher satisfaction with the modules will help the researchers refine the modules in preparation for small-scale experimental studies in the third year.
Bryant said that these modules are a direct response to secondary teachers' requests for more instructional resources to help them teach low-performing students. Project AIM is specifically designed to give teachers tools for intervention teaching.
Bryant has published extensively and been principal investigator on several grants that focus on education interventions for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. She is co-editor of the Learning Disability Quarterly and has served as president of the national Council for Learning Disabilities.