Theses Doctoral

Unlocking the eight standards for mathematical practice for students with mathematical learning disabilities and cognitive deficits in executive functioning

Lechner, Heather K.

The Common Core Standards for Math (CCSM) require a fundamental shift in what is expected of students with and without disabilities. Computation and finding correct answers are no longer sufficient. Students need to articulate the basis of their understanding and extend it. Teachers of students with a mathematical learning disability (MLD) are challenged in meeting the immediate academic needs of their students as well as the expectations outlined by the new standards.

Students identified as having MLD with a deficit in executive functioning (EF) are expected to utilize the Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) to access the CCSM as their general education peers do. Yet, when the three main brain functions of EF (working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control) are considered, deficits in these areas hinder access to the SMP. A compromise in any one of these functions may inhibit the students’ ability to master the standards.

This study examined which of the 11 identified EF skills are perceived deficiencies of students with MLD and deficits in EF, as well as what tools and resources are needed to support and develop EF skills in relation to the SMP. The focus was on the SMP and their use by K-5 teachers who serve students with MLD, coupled with cognitive deficits in EF.

A manual was created specifically for this study, which found that the perceived deficit areas did not always align with the actual need areas by users of the manual. Respondents consistently identified resources aligned with EF skills associated with behavioral skills as most necessary, though survey results identified cognitive skills as most required to access the SMP. From a practical teaching perspective, these results are not surprising, as research has shown that a strong classroom culture (which directly correlates to internalization and use of behavioral executive functioning skills) is necessary for learning to take place, regardless of content. Participants indicated that the manual’s skills and strategies were beneficial for both the target population and general education students. Recommendations to expand the target audience of the manual and develop a training companion were crucial next steps.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Perkins, Brian Keith
Parla, James
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2020