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Peer Tutoring in Mathematics at the Intermediate School Level

Amanda Hathhorn University of St. Thomas

While supervised by a teacher, a group of eighth-graders offered assistance and peer tutoring to academically underachieving seventh-graders with the goal of improving their basic computational skills and understanding of number operations and divisibility rules. Lessons were designed for the peer tutors that focused on these goals and they received sufficient training on peer-tutoring methods to better assist the students and to avoid the tendency to provide the answers. The peer tutoring was offered Monday through Friday for twenty minutes each day and was conducted in a small group setting that encouraged student-to-student communication and supported academic achievement.

I teach seventh grade mathematics at a predominately Hispanic, title one school. Many of the students are at risk and/or Limited English Proficient (LEP) and struggle with problem solving and very basic computational skills. I decided to do my case study to determine if a peer tutoring program will have a positive effect on academic achievement of intermediate school level children. To test this hypothesis that peer tutoring may be a viable program for student success, twenty at-risk seventh-grade students were paired with ten academically achieving eighth-grade students. Eighth graders were trained for two weeks and the tutoring was conducted for four weeks. Training the ten eighth grade tutors to successfully work with the struggling seventh grade students was crucial. Jenkins and Jenkins (1987) recommends that tutors have a highly structured and carefully prescribed lesson format, as well as a positive class climate and active supervision to maintain a successful peer tutoring program. Each eighth grader worked with two students while under supervision and the tutoring occurred twenty minutes each day. Lesson plans were developed to cover specific skills with a particular emphasis on basic computational skills. French essayist and moralist, Joseph Joubert once said, To teach is to learn twice ("thinkexist.com," 2012). In other words, not only will the seventh graders benefit from the peer tutoring, but the eighth graders who will serve as peer tutor will also benefit from the opportunity to reflect, discuss and share their computational skills through guided lesson plans.

Measures - The research was a quantitative design as students were administered a pre-test and post-test created by the principal investigator which included two parts. Part A was a two minute timed test with forty-two questions testing basic computational skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Part B was a fifteen minute timed test with the first section testing their knowledge of divisibility rules and the second part testing seventh grade material. The eight questions that are seventh grade material are questions selected from TAKS Review and Preparation Workbook Mathematics Grade 7. Both pre-test and post-test contained the same questions but written in a different order. The pre-test and post-test are reliable tests because Part A is focused on computational skills. While basic computational skills are not taught at the seventh grade level, they are an essential element of seventh grade material based on the TEKS, in which seventh grade students are required to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals. Part B focuses on knowledge of divisibility rules, as well as application of seventh grade material, based on the TEKS. It is imperative that seventh grade students can quickly and accurately multiply and divide because unlike the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test (TAKS Test), the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR Test) is timed with a four hour time limit.

Figure 3. Means for experimental group and control group on Part B on grade level questions for pre-test and post-test.

Design This experimental quantitative study used a single-group pretest-posttest design to examine the positive effects of peer tutoring on academic achievement of intermediate school level children. Tutors received training prior to the implementation of the peer tutoring program and the peer tutoring lasted for four weeks. Pretest and posttest scores were examined, as well as the two minute timed facts test at the end of each tutoring session. The principal investigator chose this design because it was deemed the most feasible choice for demonstrating computational skill increases.

One consideration for future peer tutoring would be to ensure that all peer tutors receive all of the necessary training prior to entering the program. In addition to setting expectations, the training sessions were essential to attend because it assisted the tutors with understanding and practicing scaffolding, which is something that they most likely have not facilitated in the past. Eleven of the twenty seventh graders in the current study are considered at-risk. A future study could investigate the benefits of increasing the amount of at-risk students. Margolis and McCabe (2006) suggest that peer tutoring, communicating recent success, and teaching specific learning strategies can strengthen at-risk students opinions in their abilities and increase their willingness to participate in academic tasks. Future studies should also consider increasing the amount of participants (sample size) to validate the results.

Sample- The sample for this study was comprised of thirty students, ranging in ages of twelve to fourteen in which twenty students were struggling seventh graders selected from within the principal investigators five math classes and ten average eighth graders who served as tutors. The sample of students included both male and female tutors and tutees. With the exception of one tutor and one tutee, both of whom were African American, the remainder of the tutorial group was Hispanic.

The post-test was administered five weeks later and on Part A the control group scored (M = 11.75, SD = 6.6) while the experimental group scored (M = 19.58, SD = 3.27). On Part B divisibility, the control group scored (M = 27.65, SD = 13.26) while the experimental group scored (M = 39.74, SD = 7.36) Last but not least, on the seventh grade level questions the control group scored (M= 2.05, SD = 2.04) and the experimental group scored (M = 5.53, SD = 0.82) see Figure 3. Overall, on the post-test, the control group scored (M = 39.1, SD = 17.39) and the experimental group scored (M= 61.17, SD = 9.75). The investigator performed a two-tailed, unequal variance t-test to assess whether the means of the two groups are statistically different. The t-test proves that the scores are significantly different and therefore, we can reject the null hypothesis see Table 2.

Jenkins, J. R., & Jenkins, L. M. (1987). Making peer tutoring work. Educational Leadership, 44(6), 64-68.

Group

Pre-Test M 35.80 41.56 SD 14.70 15.31

Post-Test M 61.17 39.10 SD 9.75 17.40

Experimental Control

Two Tailed unpairedttest P-value 0.00 0.94

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Table 2: Means, Standard Deviations and t test for Experimental (n = 20) and Control (n = 20) Groups at Pre-test and Post-test.

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