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Math Peer Tutoring for Students with Specific Learning Disabilities

April D. Miller
The University of Southern Mississippi
Patricia M. Barbetta
Florida International University
Gre !. Drevno
Talbot "ounty Public Schools
Stacy A. Mart# and Ti$othy !. %eron
The &hio State University
Students with specific learning disabilities (LD) often have problems with mathematics
that begin in elementary school and continue throughout their secondary years. For these
students, growth in mathematics knowledge is estimated to be approimately one year for
every two years of schooling (!awley " #iller, $%&%). 'lthough hard data on the
percentage of students with mathematics LD are unavailable ((ender, $%%)), several
researchers have reported that these students often lack even basic skill proficiency
(Fleischner, *arnett, " Shepherd, $%&)+ *arnett " Fleischner, $%&,+ -hornton "
-oohey, $%&.). Specifically, #cLeod and 'rmstrong ($%&)) suggested that high/school
level students with LD perform mathematics operations at only the third/ or fourth/grade
level. 0ven after graduation from high school, challenges related to math continue to
surface in the work place for these individuals (Scheid, $%%1).
2hile some educators have suggested that an overhaul of the entire mathematics
curriculum might be needed to improve skills (Smith, $%&%), peer tutoring offers a less
intrusive solution. ' well/designed peer tutoring program provides directed repetition,
regular review, and functional practice to overlearn skills, operations, and concepts
(Lerner, $%%,). 0ach of these areas is important to the development of fluent math skills.
3sing Students as #ath -utors
-utoring has been demonstrated to be effective with students of varying skill levels
(4eron, 4eward, !ooke, " 4ill, $%&,) and, of interest in this contet, to produce specific
improvement in mathematics ((arbetta " 4eron, $%%$+ Franca, 5err, 6eit7, " Lambert,
$%%1+ *reenfield " #c8eil, $%&9+ #aher, $%&:+ ;igott, Fantu77o, " !lement, $%&<+
-hurston " Dasta, $%%1+ =acc " !annon, $%%$). -able $ shows other reasons for using
students as peer tutors.
Formats for -utoring
!ommonly used tutoring formats include peer (classwide), cross/age, $>$, small group,
and home/based tutoring (#iller, (arbetta, " 4eron, $%%:). 0ach of these formats is
discussed briefly below.
Classwide peer tutoring. !lasswide peer tutoring systems (!2;-) involve all
students working in tutor/tutee pairs simultaneously (!arta, *reenwood, Dinwiddie,
5ohler, " Del?uadri, cited in *reenwood, $%%$). 's such, !2;- has been used to
improve basic skill performance of low/achieving minority, disadvantaged, or students
with LD within the general education classroom setting (Del?uadri, *reenwood,
2horton, !arta, " 4all, $%&<), and to increase the number of opportunities each student
has to respond actively to academic materials (*reenwood, $%%$).
Cross-aged tutoring. !ross/age tutoring is an effective method to provide
individuali7ed instruction (Schrad@ " =alus, $%%1). An cross/age tutoring arrangements,
the tutor is approimately two or more years older than the tutee and usually from the
same school. An some cases, however, @unior/high or high/school students from nearby
campuses have served as tutors of elementary students ((arbetta, #iller, ;eters, 4eron, "
!ochran, $%%$).
One-to-one tutoring. Bnly select student dyads participate in this format. 3sually
students with LD needing remedial assistance work with @ust one other student, who
serves as the tutor.
Small group instruction. -wo procedural variations are possible within a small/
group configuration. First, small/group tutoring may be used for students with LD who
need additional (or remedial) practice with skills. -hus, part of their independent seat
work time might be devoted to tutoring. An the second variation, the whole class
participates, but on a rotating basis. 2hile the teacher works with one instructional group,
a second group is engaged in peer tutoring, while the rest of the class participates in
independent seat work or other cooperative groups. *roups rotate daily (or weekly) to
allow each group to engage in all activities.
Home-based tutoring. An home/based formats, parents (or siblings) serve as
tutors. 'lthough home/based tutoring programs have not been widely studied,
preliminary data show that parents can serve as effective tutors for their children
((arbetta " 4eron, $%%$+ 0lksnin " 0lksnin, $%%$).
*eneral -raining ;rocedures
-utors who have received specific tutor training have been found to emit more
appropriate tutoring behaviors than untrained tutors (*reenwood, !arta, " 4all, $%&&+
4eward, 4eron, 0llis, " !ooke, $%&<). 4owever, the procedures used to train tutors vary
((arbetta et al., $%%$+ Folio " 8orman, $%&$+ 5rouse, *erber, " 5auffman, $%&$).
*enerally, training is based on a task analysis of the tutoring role, with the steps trained
se?uentially. -he etent and type of training relates directly to the goals and compleity
of the tutoring task, and to the skill of the tutor.
An many tutoring programs, a model, lead, and test se?uence is used ((arbetta "
4eron, $%%$+ (arbetta et al., $%%$+ !ooke, 4eron, " 4eward, $%&,+ 4eron et al., $%&,+
#aheady " Sainato, $%&.+ ;olirstok " *reer, $%&<). -his se?uence ensures that partners
practice all elements of the program, including the critical element of error correction
((arbetta et al., $%%$+ 5oury " (rowder, $%&<+ #aheady " 4arper, $%&9). Further, it
provides the teacher with a method for evaluating tutoring. Scripted lessons have also
been used with this model to keep training consistent across groups and to cue trainer
behaviors (e.g., (arbetta et al., $%%$+ 4eron et al., $%&,).
Bnce a tutoring program is implemented, it is important to monitor and evaluate
the performance of both the tutor and tutee (5rouse et al., $%&$). Daily and weekly
progress data can be incorporated for this purpose (4eron et al., $%&,). ;erformance
probes can measure tutoring outcomes across time, while generali7ation measures assess
effects across settings or responses (Stokes " (aer, $%99). !harts and graphs are efficient
ways to gather and display data. An the following section, we take a closer look at
implementing a math peer tutoring program.
;rocedures for Amplementing #ath ;eer -utoring
Successful implementation of a math peer tutoring program involves three ma@or steps>
*etting ready, running the program, and enrichment and etension activities.
Step $> *etting 6eady
-he first step, *etting 6eady to -utor, includes identifying the tutoring format to be used,
selecting the tutoring pairs, training the partners, and arranging the environment.
Tutoring format. An determining which tutoring format to implement, teachers
should take into account characteristics of students, resources available, and purpose(s) of
tutoring. For eample, if teachers wish to increase the level of active student responding,
they may select classwide peer tutoring. Likewise, if they wish to increase opportunities
for students to interact with students in other classrooms, they may choose a cross/age
Selecting partners. Student dyads can be paired by the teacher, either on a
random basis (5ohler " *reenwood, $%%1), by skill levels, or with special considerations
for students with behavior or achievement problems (!ooke et al., $%&,). 2ithin tutoring
pairs, students take turns administering instruction, each spending . to $1 minutes as the
Training tutors. An addition to the general training procedures described earlier,
within this tutoring model, students must also be trained to use the tutoring folder. -hus,
tutor/tutee pairs are taught to recogni7e the function of the C*o,D CStop,D and CStar !ardD
pockets on the right side of the folder, and the tracking chart on the left side (see Figure
$). Further, they are taught how to use the E and B elements on the reverse side of the
folder (see Figures ) and ,). Folders are easily produced using a file folder, three library
pockets, graph paper, and markers.
rranging the en!ironment. 'rranging the environment re?uires attending to
tutor scheduling, epectations, and the teacherFs role. -utoring can be implemented as
little as once a week or as often as every day. 4owever, a minimum of two to three days a
week is recommended so that tutors and tutees can use trained behaviors readily.
-utoring typically lasts ,1 minutes, with )1/minutes reserved for tutoring and $1 minutes
for tests, reviews, and transition.
2ith respect to epectations, the teacher should provide clear and concise
directions to students regarding their level of participation (CDo your best.D C4elp your
partner.D). Similarly, if math peer tutoring occurs outside the classroom (e.g., in the
home), the teacher may wish to communicate these epectations to parents in writing.
-he teacherFs role in tutoring is that of program developer, organi7er, and monitor. An
each of these roles, the teacher develops the actual content to be learned, arranges content
se?uentially as student performance dictates, and provides feedback and reinforcement to
students regarding implementation of tutoring procedures and actual achievement.
Step )> 6unning the ;rogram
-he second step in effective implementation of tutoring programs contains a se?uence
that can be used to implement, maintain, and evaluate peer tutoring across any of the
formats described earlier.
Pretest. First, present a list of math facts (or concepts) to students, and ask them
to solve them. ;rovide time for each response. -he first $1 items that the student misses
are used to develop his or her first set of flashcards. Second, conduct the pretest with a
typical assessment protocol, that is, do not provide the student with any assistance in
forming the correct response. 'fter tutoring has been implemented and the student has
mastered $1 flashcards, repeat the pretest procedure to obtain another list of $1 unknown
items (e.g., facts, concepts).
Practice. Direct the tutor to take the math flashcards from the C*oD pocket and
show them to his or her partner one at a time. -utees should write (or say) the correct
response. Af the tutee responds correctly, tutors say C*oodD and present the net card
?uickly. Af the tutee makes an incorrect response or does not respond at all, tutors should
first say, C-ry again.D Af after this prompt the tutee is still unable to produce the correct
response, the tutor provides the correct answer. -he tutee repeats the correct response.
(-his )/part prompting procedure (i.e., -ry againG2rite or Say response has been an
essential ingredient in previous tutoring programs). -he tutor continues to present
practice cards, reshuffling them until the time epires. 'fter ) to . minutes of practice
and after testing, partners switch roles.
Test. Students turn their folders over to epose an B and an E (see Figure )). -he
tutor shows each card once, holding it up for ) to , seconds. Af the tutee writes (or says)
the response correctly, the card is placed on the B. Af the tutee does not respond correctly,
or makes no response, the card is placed on the E. 8o corrective feedback is provided.
'fter all cards are presented, the back of each card is marked depending which pile the
card was placed. 'ny card with three consecutive BFs moves to the CStopD pocket. !ards
without three consecutive BFs return to the C*oD pocket and they are practiced the net
session. Bnce all cards are in the CStopD pocket, they are removed from the folder and a
new set of $1 cards is placed in the C*oD pocket. 8o new cards are added to the set until
the tutee has mastered $1 flashcards in a set (i.e., all cards in a set have been moved to the
CStopD pocket).
Trac"ing #raph and Star Card. -he tracking graph shows a record of the total
number of cards mastered, and provides visual feedback and reinforcement to students
(see Figure $, left panel). Students mark the number of blocks corresponding to the
number of cards that moved to the CStopD pocket that day. (y alternating colors daily,
progress can be monitored. Af no cards move on a given day, students draw a line between
the connected boes.
Maintenance Probes. 0ach time a set of cards moves to the CStopD pocket, they
are placed in an envelope and dated seven days ahead. Bn the date indicated, a review
test is administered in addition to the daily test. Af a maintenance card is identified
correctly, it eits the system. Af a maintenance card is identified incorrectly, however, it is
placed with the net set of flashcards to be inserted in the C*oD pocket (% new cards plus
$ card from the failed maintenance probe). An short, a card eits the system only if it is
identified correctly three consecutive times during daily testing and once during
maintenance testing. #aintenance is essential to ensure retention of skills learned
Step ,> 0nrichment and 0tension.
Supplemental practice provides enrichment and etension activities related to tutoring
content. For eample, if the students practiced math facts, they might use word or
application problems during generali7ation eercises. Formulae, time, money, fractions,
measurement, conversions, estimation, and many other skills can be included within an
etension program. -eachers are reminded to watch for opportunities where a fact,
application, or concept can be included or etended. -his procedure serves as a good
review and facilitates generali7ation to new situations.
;rogram adaptations can enrich or etend skills by varying the type of cards
available in the C*oD pocket, or the type of responses epected from students. Figure :
shows a sample of adaptations that may be used across math applications and grade
levels. Andividuali7ation can be further adapted by creating different card sets based on
student ability, ad@usting the pace of tutoring, or varying the number of cards per set.
-eachers must recogni7e that peer tutoring is not an Cadd onD program. Anstead, it is an
instructional methodology that is consistent with most teacher goals. At provides the
opportunity for students with LD to become active learners and offers a functional way
for students to learn mathematics skills. -eachers can manage a tutoring program in the
same way that they manage other small/group activities in their classrooms. An fact, given
the structured nature of tutoring programs, student management concerns are reduced.
Special materials preparation can be minimi7ed by having students prepare
stimulus cards, or by enlisting the aid of parent volunteers. Students only need enough
materials to initiate the program. 6eplacements can be generated during implementation.
Some teachers might be opposed to tutoring on philosophical grounds, believing
that all instruction should be delivered directly by them. 'lthough, teachers should be
skeptical, a healthy skepticism should not be confused with bias. *iven the
overwhelming data demonstrating the effectiveness of tutoring programs for all students,
especially those with LD, even the most hesitant practitioner should concede its efficacy
and provide implementation opportunities consistent with student needs.
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Table $. %easons to &se Students as Tutors
;eers can CshapeD the behaviors of others (students, teachers, and parents) (*erber
" 5auffman, $%&$+ *reenwood, $%&$).
;eers have been shown to be effective teachers (!ooke, 4eron, " 4eward, $%&,+ *erber "
5auffman, $%&$).
;eer interventions can increase the chances for success of students with LD in
mainstream activities (4eron, 4eward, !ooke, " 4ill, $%&,+ #adden " Slavin, $%&,).
;eer tutoring programs can avoid stimulus control problems that may arise when one or
only a few individuals administer contingencies (!ooper, 4eron, " 4eward, $%&9).
2hen peers are used as behavior change agents, the desired student behavior may
be performed across a wider variety of settings and situations ('nderson/Anman, 2alker,
;urcell, $%&:+ *oldstein " 2ickstrom, $%&<).