Universally Designed Algebra
Project Purpose (Research Question/Problem Statement):
In March 2009, the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT) completed a Demonstration, Enrichment, and Information Dissemination grant from the National Science Foundation’s Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) grant program. This award was used to create universally-designed online algebra learning resources for use by students in developmental algebra courses, focused on improving access and usability for students with learning disabilities. Additional grant activities included developing companion learning strategies to optimize the use of the online learning resources, training faculty at four two-year institutions to use the learning resources and strategies in developmental math courses, evaluating student outcomes and changes in faculty attitudes toward students with LD; and disseminating the results. Since mastering mathematical concepts is crucial to learning in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, improving math instruction for students with LD is hypothesized to improve the achievement and confidence of those students. Designing effective and usable tools to enhance STEM learning for students with disabilities has the potential to achieve widespread impact.
NSF RDE Grant HRD-0726252: Universal Design in College Algebra: Customizing Learning Resources for Two Year Students with Learning Disabilities
In order to pursue postsecondary education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and computing, students must be able to master fundamental mathematical principles that serve as part of the foundation of these fields. Given the importance of mathematics as a gateway to advanced degrees and cutting-edge career opportunities, it is important to investigate methods which can facilitate learning and understanding of math concepts for students with learning disabilities and attention disorders (collectively referred to here as “LD”). The overarching goal of this project, UD Algebra, was to increase interest and confidence in learning math for students with LD, thereby leading to more students with LD succeeding in additional STEM courses and pursuing STEM careers. A secondary goal of this project was to increase educators’ awareness and improve educators’ attitudes about the potential for students with LD to succeed in STEM.
To achieve these goals, the team began by evaluating the accessibility and usability of existing free online algebra learning resources (LRs) for use by students with LD. The was then able to create universally-designed algebra LRs that are accessible to students with LD along with companion learning strategies to optimize the use of those LRs. These resources and strategies are freely available through the project’s website. Finally, the team trained faculty members at four institutions and testing the aforementioned resources and strategies at each of those institutions.
The materials, resources, and strategies developed as part of this grant are made freely available on the project website located at usablealgebra.landmark.edu
Data from students (both with and without LD) at four institutions showed that students who had used the developed LRs had more confidence in their math ability and a more positive attitude towards math than those who had not.
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