An Exploration of Number Sense, Motivation, and Mindset in Relation to Math Achievement for Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities Open Access

Despite a U.S. emphasis on math achievement, low math performance of students with learning disabilities remains a concern. In an attempt to explore the factors related to student success in mathematics, previous studies have examined various factors related to math achievement (Akkaya, 2016; Dweck, 2006; Elliot & Dweck, 2005; Sasanguie et al., 2013; Yeager et al., 2016). Among these math achievement-related constructs are number sense, motivation, and mindset. While each of these factors has been found to have critical relationships to math achievement, there is a gap in this literature, as there is limited emphasis on middle school students with learning disabilities. The purpose of this study was to explore mindset, motivation, and number sense in relation to math achievement for middle school students with learning disabilities. The present study used a mixed methodology with an integrated convergent design to explore these variables in depth. Each construct was assessed via a survey constructed of items selected from valid instruments. Interviews with students were analyzed in addition to the quantitative data. The results were compared and synthesized to enhance the understandings of the variables associated with math achievement for middle school students. This study found that number sense was statistically significantly correlated to math achievement, and through the integrated analysis, that there were differences in motivation between the two groups (students with LD and students without LD), and that motivation was correlated to number sense and math achievement. This study also found statistically significant differences between students with LD and students without LD in math achievement. Further, the mean difference of the scores on number sense between the two groups (students with LD and without LD) was significant. In this study, students who reported that they had a growth mindset and were motivated to learn math tended to also discuss positive experiences in math. Furthermore, compared to students without LD, students with LD reported more negative motivation toward their experiences with and achievement in math. In addition, the IA numeracy scale (Gittens, 2015) was used to assess number sense for this study. The IA numeracy scale (Gittens, 2015) was strongly correlated with teacher evaluations of student number sense, indicating that the IA numeracy scale (Gittens, 2015) could be a reliable source for assessing number sense for future research, as well as researcher evaluations.


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