Flood, M. S. (2017). Adult learners, learning disabilities, and mathematics: A case study (Publication No. 10253044) [Doctoral dissertation, Montclair State University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1868983970

Flood, M. S. (2017). Adult learners, learning disabilities, and mathematics: A case study (Publication No. 10253044) [Doctoral dissertation, Montclair State University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1868983970


Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ); ProQuest document ID: 1868983970; also available online in Montclair website database: https://digitalcommons.montclair.edu/etd/35/


Extended time; Extra blank or specialized paper; Learning disabilities; Math; No age; No disability; Postsecondary; U.S. context





In this qualitative case study of a postsecondary mathematics program specially designed for the education of students with learning disabilities, the researcher sought to describe how academic needs of the student population were addressed through the provision of accommodations; this summary emphasized accommodations for course examinations, including extended time and math formula resource lists.


The study was conducted at a small, private liberal arts college, in the Northeast (U.S.), with about 40% of its student population composed of students with disabilities. Three faculty members—all part-time employees—in the mathematics program participated in interviews, and 20 postsecondary students with math-related learning disabilities participated in five focus groups or three individual interviews. Substantial individual details about each professor were gathered and reported as findings; information relevant to their accommodation practices was emphasized in this summary. Substantial details about the nature of the math learning disabilities of the students in each professor's courses were also reported; information relevant to their accommodations use was emphasized in this summary.

Dependent Variable

Qualitative data were gathered for this bounded case study using three one-on-one instructor interviews, five student focus groups and three student interviews, and approximately 10 classroom observations. Interviews and focus groups were each audio-recorded and transcribed, and extensive field notes were taken during the classroom observations. The observations were of class sessions for six sections of three different mathematics courses (Math 102, Math 103, and Math 104) taught by the three faculty members, for one or two occasions each during the Spring 2016 semester. Artifacts such as course descriptions were gathered and supplemented data collected, for triangulation purposes. Essentially, the researcher sought to understand how the math faculty members taught math, and how the students with learning disabilities learned math; information relevant to accommodations practices and to accommodations use were emphasized in this summary.


The participating math faculty members were identified as Professors A, B, and C, and were designated "the coach," "the newbie," and the "old-timer"; with all three not having formal academic pre-service preparation on learning disabilities, they had differing working definitions of learning disabilities. By design, the math program incorporated various supports and accommodations routinely to students without direct disability self-disclosure. The three math faculty members provided various academic accommodations: Professor A provided extra or extended time, copies of lecture notes, and did not require math formulas to be memorized; B provided extended time on exams, listed formulas on exams and other materials, allowed students to write corrected responses to exam items after reviewing them in exchange for partial credit, and reviewed homework instructions and started homework in class sessions; C listed formulas on exams and permitted students to bring their own information reference cards to exams. The dissertation researcher indicated that the case study's institution had students with the semantic memory subtype and the procedural subtype of math learning disabilities. Professors B and C provided supports such as math formula lists that attended to working memory difficulties of their students with disabilities. The participating postsecondary students with learning disabilities reported that Professor A was generally not interpersonally warm or approachable, yet that the other two math professors were very attentive to student needs, and made themselves available for student questions. They remarked on the lack of stigma they sensed when using accommodations in the math program, contrasting their previous stressful accommodations request experiences in other postsecondary programs. The researcher reported on the shortcomings of the math program, noting that it had a traditional knowledge transfer approach, with lecture and math problem practice, and some courses lacked relevance for students.