Math & Science Education for Students with Learning Difficulties: Distance Learning Word Problem Intervention Materials
Math and science and the ability to solve problems in those disciplines lie at the heart of technical innovation and economic security in todays global marketplace. It has been shown that the acquisition of higher skill levels in problem solving can have significant effects on labor market success. For students with learning disabilities, access to the quality math and science education that will prepare them for this level of competition is severely limited. This situation becomes even more urgent when the statistics regarding the increasing numbers of students with disabilities are considered. Todays rural leaders are well aware that sustainable development at the local level requires a technically proficient workforce and high achieving schools, especially to attract the agriculturally-related manufacturing and alternative or renewable energy innovation contracts that are drivers in economic development for rural communities. The challenges to provide these key ingredients are complex at baseline, but for rural communities these challenges are magnified. Counties that produce a low-skill labor force are finding that rapidly-changing production technologies and overseas competition severely limit the prospects for local employment growth and long term economic development. With the advent of alternative and renewable energy and agricultural technology innovation, high tech cluster economic development initiatives will be looking for rural areas that have nurtured their math and science labor pool. Therefore, a rural countys ability to provide a high quality math education has direct implications for the communitys future economic prosperity, including their ability to limit any outmigration trends and build a sustainable ecosystem. Programs that raise problem solving abilities in math and science are an essential part of any successful strategy to improve the economic well-being of rural America. With this in mind, the Learnimation team will design, build, and validate a web-based, distance learning Problem Solving Practice System that will provide rural students and educators with ample practice across the complete range of problem types required for problem solving mastery prior to work in algebra. The method that will be used is rapid prototyping with frequent focus group and field test input. The expected outcomes in the Phase I award include an instructional design, a functional prototype of the system and feedback gleaned from high need rural educators and expert panelists. The anticipated benefits to participating high need rural teachers include exposure to research-based problem solving materials, educational technology design processes and problem solving curricula. The anticipated social benefit of this investigation exists in the creation of a tool that will allow rural communities to reinvest in their math education programs and prepare their communities for future development. Following a successful Phase II timeline, the anticipated benefits include larger-scale design and implementation of a web-based resource for improving problem solving performance in math and science in high need rural communities.
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