Improving At-Risk Learners’ Understanding of Fractions

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

The purposes of this study were to investigate the effects of an intervention designed to improve at-risk 4th graders’ understanding of fractions and to examine the processes by which effects occurred. The intervention focused more on the measurement interpretation of fractions; the control condition focused more on the part-whole interpretation of fractions and on procedures. Intervention was also designed to compensate for at-risk students’ limitations in the domain-general abilities associated with fraction learning. At-risk students (n = 259) were randomly assigned to intervention and control. Whole-number calculation skill, domain-general abilities (working memory, attentive behavior, processing speed, listening comprehension), and fraction proficiency were pretested. Intervention occurred for 12 weeks, 3 times per week, 30 min per session, and then fraction performance was reassessed. On each conceptual and procedural fraction outcome, effects favored intervention over control (effect sizes = 0.29 to 2.50), and the gap between at-risk and low-risk students narrowed for the intervention group but not the control group. Improvement in the accuracy of children’s measurement interpretation of fractions mediated intervention effects. Also, intervention effects were moderated by domain-general abilities, but not whole-number calculation skill.




Published In

Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 3, 683-700.