The Role of Algebraic Reasoning Within Additive and Multiplicative Multistep Problem Solving for Students With Mathematics Difficulty (Project RAAMPS)


Students with mathematics difficulty (MD) demonstrate poorer performance compared to their typically developing peers in the area of word problems. Word problems with multiple steps prove even more difficult for students with MD. Research has highlighted the benefits of using schemas to set up and solve word problems and of developing an understanding of prealgebraic reasoning skills to create word-problem equations. We examine whether students demonstrate improved word-problem performance when they set up and solve word problems in one step using prealgrebraic reasoning skills (e.g., relational understanding of the equal sign, order of operations; RAAMPS condition) or whether students demonstrate improved word-problem performance when they set up and solve word problems in multiple steps (AMPS condition). That is, does enhanced skill with the equal sign and solving equations lead to improved word-problem performance on one-step and multistep word problems?


The purpose of this grant is to investigate the efficacy of a schema-based word-problem intervention focused on improving the word-problem performance on one-step and multistep word problems among fourth-grade students with MD.


August: Initial recruitment of AISD elementary schools and fourth-grade teachers. The project manager trains the team on the screening and pretesting batteries.

September: Initial screening of fourth-grade classrooms. Determine eligible students as those performing < 25th percentile on two math assessments. Complete randomization and randomly assign eligible students to one of three conditions: RAAMPS, AMPS, or business as usual (BAU).

Late September–early October: Complete individual pretesting of 150 eligible students.

October–March: Administer 13 weeks of individual word-problem tutoring (1-to-1 with a graduate student tutor and fourth-grade student) to students in the RAAMPS and AMPS conditions (n = 100). Tutors participate in several intervention trainings during this time. The project manager conducts supervisory observations (once every 3 weeks for each of the 14 tutors) during this time.

Late March–April: Small-group posttesting of RAAMPS, AMPS, and BAU students.

April–August: Complete administrative tasks, such as scoring, data entry, and fidelity checks.


Each year (across 4 years), we include roughly 150 students, 30–40 fourth-grade teachers, and 12–15 partner elementary schools.


We are still analyzing data. Initial results suggest that RAAMPS students outperformed AMPS students and that both treatment conditions outperformed BAU.