Bouck, E., Shurr, J., Bassette, L., Park, J., & Whorley, A. (2018). Adding it up: Comparing concrete and app-based manipulatives to support students with disabilities with adding fractions . Journal of Special Education Technology , 33 (3), 194–206. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162643418759341
Bouck, E., Shurr, J., Bassette, L., Park, J., & Whorley, A. (2018). Adding it up: Comparing concrete and app-based manipulatives to support students with disabilities with adding fractions. Journal of Special Education Technology, 33(3), 194–206. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162643418759341
Student performances with concrete and virtual (app-based) math manipulatives were compared with one another and with baseline performance. Participants were oriented to using these supports within one session.
Three middle school students—in grades 7 or 8—participated; two had mild intellectual disabilities and one had a learning disability. They were identified by a teacher as struggling with math, enrolled in a self-contained special education math class, and confirmed to have trouble with fractions according to pre-screening testing. Additional demographic and personal characteristics were also reported. These students' rural school in the Midwest (U.S.) was also described.
The students’ mean performances on a set of comparable math assessment tasks across five sessions (for each of the three conditions) sessions were evaluated based on accuracy or correctness, task completion time, and independence (task steps completed without prompting). The math content tested the addition of fractions with unlike denominators. The researchers followed an adapted alternating treatment; students also participated in post-assessment interviews that explored the social validity of the manipulative types. Incidentally, participants were pre-screened through consideration of their scores on various tests, including the WISC-IV, the KTEA-II, Vineland-II, and relevant subtests of KeyMath-3.
Participants' accuracy of responses using the concrete and app-based manipulatives was equal, and participants scored higher than the baseline with no manipulatives. Participants demonstrated longer task completion times when using manipulatives in general, yet neither format—concrete or virtual—took significantly different task time. The differences in independence were slight, but differed by student: two were more independent with the concrete manipulatives and one with the app-based manipulatives. The results of the post-assessment interviews show that the participants enjoyed both the concrete and app-based manipulatives, but two preferred using the app while one had no preference. Anecdotal observations during math task completion were consistent with participants' interview data. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.