Fraction Intervention and the Long-Term Effects of Interleaved Instruction

December 13, 2023

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Cognitive Science

The first objective was to examine the effects of a “next-generation” fraction intervention on fourth- and fifth-grade students. This intervention, which featured six enhancements compared to a previously validated fraction intervention, aimed to address career- and college-readiness standards. The second goal was to assess the long-term impact of the next-generation fraction intervention one year after its completion. The third objective was to isolate the effects of one specific enhancement: interleaved fraction calculation instruction.

Single Topic Instruction vs Interleaved Practice in Teaching Math Skills

While robust research supports the efficacy of fourth-grade fraction interventions, the existing studies were conducted during the early implementation of career and college readiness standards (CCRS), limiting their applicability to present-day students. Research indicates that the prevalent approach in mathematics textbooks, school instruction, and interventions is blocked instruction. This approach involves the teacher focusing on a single operation or problem type, with practice involving solving problems of the same type. Interleaved instruction, a less common approach, addresses more than one operation or problem type simultaneously and provides practice on different problem types, even before all types have been taught.

Interleaved Instruction Is an Important Component of Math Interventions on Fractions

This study involved fourth- and fifth-grade students scoring at or below the 20th percentile in math on the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-4). One hundred and fifty-eight students with intellectual abilities falling broadly within the average range were selected. There were three groups: Groups 1 and 2 received the enhanced next-generation fraction intervention, focusing on magnitude understanding and calculation. Group 1 received interleaved instruction, while Group 2 received blocked instruction. Group 3 served as a business-as-usual control group. Students in Groups 1 and 2 who received the next-generation fraction intervention showed stronger fraction outcomes than the control group. Although the advantages were smaller and less significant one year after the intervention than immediately following it, there was still an indication that the next-generation fraction intervention had more robust results than the control group. This study replicates a recurring finding in the cognitive science literature regarding the long-term advantages of interleaved instruction, applying it to a different population—students with intensive intervention needs—and within the context of a structured comprehensive instructional design. The conclusion is that interleaved instruction is a crucial component of fraction calculation intervention for this population.

Future Research Should Focus More on Interleaved Interventions

This study suggests that the next-generation intervention produces stronger post-test results than the control group. Interleaved instruction emerges as a vital design feature in interventions for fraction calculation. Future research should specifically isolate the effects of interleaved calculation interventions related to whole numbers and algebra for this study’s population and the broader spectrum of students experiencing mathematics difficulties.

Notable Quotes: 

“First, when contrasted against a control group representing CCRS national reform’s enriched classroom fraction instruction and students stronger fraction learning, next-generation intervention produces a strong posttest conceptual and calculation advantage for students with intensive intervention needs at grades 4 and 5.”

“We note the possibility that persistence may be stronger for the present study’s fraction intervention and other mathematics interventions if review of intervention strategies were to be provided during the subsequent school year.”

“Cognitive science demonstrates that although confusion and errors likely occur early into interleaved instruction, long-term outcomes favor interleaved over blocked instruction”

Personal Takeaway: 

It’s definitely worth looking into the SSNIT (super solvers intervention) that was the basis of instruction for the next-generation fraction intervention. I would like to see if it’s something I can use for my own practice when providing interventions. This article also highlighted the importance of maintenance following an intervention which I think is often overlooked.—Matt Browne

Fuchs, L. S., Malone, A. S., Preacher, K. J., Cho, E., Fuchs, D., & Changas, P. (2023). Next-Generation Fraction Intervention and the Long-Term Advantage of Interleaved Instruction. Exceptional Children, 89(3), 332-352.

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