Effective Programs in Elementary Mathematics: A Best-Evidence Synthesis

Type of Study

Best-Evidence Synthesis, effect-size

Grade Levels

Grade 3

Study Size

30 students


This article reviews research on the achievement outcomes of three types of approaches to improving elementary mathematics: Mathematics curricula, computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and instructional process programs. Study inclusion requirements included use of a randomized or matched control group, a study duration of 12 weeks, and achievement measures not inherent to the experimental treatment. Eighty-seven studies met these criteria, of which 36 used random assignment to treatments. There was limited evidence supporting differential effects of various mathematics textbooks. Effects of CAI were moderate. The strongest positive effects were found for instructional process approaches such as forms of cooperative learning, classroom management and motivation programs, and supplemental tutoring programs. The review concludes that programs designed to change daily teaching practices appear to have more promise than those that deal primarily with curriculum or technology alone.


A tiny but randomized experiment by Patterson (2005) compared 30 third graders randomly assigned to be taught for 14 weeks using either Classworks as a supplement to Saxon Math or Saxon Math alone. Classworks was used only one hour per week. The control class used Classworks language arts, but not math. On the SAT-9, the effect size was +0.85. Whitaker (2005) carried out a small post-hoc evaluation of Classworks Gold in grades 4- 5 in two rural Tennessee schools. The study compared math and reading gains on TCAP in two Tennessee schools. Posttest differences did not approach statistical significance (ES=+0.21).

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