Well, Sam, you made my day! Thanks for the compliment! I'm doing this project through Central Mass. PALMS. The study group will be meeting on a regular basis so participants can give feedback and assistance to other group members. I predict that I will be refining my methods somewhat as I go along, thanks to their input.
I'm planning to use three different instructional strategies, each for a period of about two weeks. We will stick to each strategy exclusively during the two week period. Before each strategy is implemented, I will administer a Math Attitude Inventory to the kids, to gauge their attitudes re: self-confidence, willingness to try tough problems, and perseverance. I will be doing observational assessments, looking at homework assignments, and one written assessment for each two week period. I will compare these data for each strategy to see if any produced a positive change in attitude and/or mastery of concepts.
Although I'm doing this project with the whole class, obviously, I'm only analyzing data for 9 students for purposes of this project: 3 low kids (who failed the 4th grade MCAS or scored 220), 3 medium (proficient) kids, and 3 high-level (advanced) students.
I'm doing the unit on Name That Portion (fractions, percents, and decimals). The three strategies I'll be using are: 1)focus groups for peer tutoring. Students pick their own groups based on problem-solving strategies they prefer to use (using 10X10 grids, a Fraction Stax set, or just doing abstract "number crunching"). 2)Differentiated instruction for the same assignment (using different challenge levels for games, such as Roll Around the Clock, Fraction Track, and Capture Fractions). 3)Differentiated instruction by offering a choice in assignments (different packets of practice pages dealing with multiplication and division strategies, and a choice of mini-projects on weekly rainfall or percentage of fat in foods).
I'm finding, just in the planning phase, that Name That Portion is highly amenable to the type of strategies I'm trying. It was not difficult to break the activities down into different levels of challenge or specific strategies, such as using 10X10 grids. The manual basically suggests using multiple strategies anyway. The fact that there is such a good fit between the content of the curriculum and the strategies for differentiating instruction that I'm going to try makes me think this is going to produce interesting data. I will post results when I have them. A few people have requested more information on my results, and I'd be delighted (thrilled that someone is listening? flattered? happy to help?) to share what I learn.
I began the implementation of the first strategy today. The kids are totally cool with this research idea. They got a kick out of doing the Attitude Inventory (which I am going to analyze with the assistance of our school psychologist). They picked between three problem solving strategies (10X10 grids, Fraction Stax, and "number crunching") pretty much the way I predicted they would. Most kids, including all the weak ones, wanted to use the grids. 4 kids wanted to use the Fraction Stax. My group of 4 "hot dogs", who are aggressively self-confident, highly abstract, and extremely fluent with mathematical reasoning, chose the "do it in your head and do it 10 times faster than everybody else" method. One kid, who is somewhat language-impaired and exhibits a strong preference for concrete manipulatives, pulled down the Fraction Stax on his own at a later point in the day and worked independently on his paper (Finding Fraction and Percent Equivalents). He is really getting into using manipulatives to figure out these relationships.
This is really going to be fun. I'll keep you posted. Thanks for listening.