Selecting Mathematics Instructional Materials: An Annotated Bibliography

Effectiveness Studies

Another area of interest to districts during the selection process is achievement data for students using the instructional materials under consideration. Before adopting new materials, especially those that might differ philosophically from those used previously, individuals involved in decision-making often look for studies that include student achievement data. Acquiring students’ performance data is important for many reasons, including addressing teacher and parent concerns about how the new materials might affect student performance on district and state assessments, and considering how students using NSF-funded materials versus those using commercially-developed materials compare in achievement. Given that these effectiveness studies are usually concentrated by grade level, we have organized this section by elementary, middle, and high school grade levels.

It is important to note that much of the research involving effectiveness studies focuses on the student achievement data for students in classrooms using NSF-funded materials, because most of the recent research on the efficacy of mathematics instructional materials is centered on these materials. For example, several articles at the elementary level describe computational and problem-solving data for children using NSF-funded materials. A number of the middle school studies focus on student achievement data for students using Standards-based materials. At the high school level there is also a predominance of studies examining the achievement data of students using NSF-funded materials, including studies that investigate the preparedness of these students for college mathematics.

When reading the set of effectiveness studies in this section, it will be helpful to consider the context of the study and how this is similar or different from your district. Another consideration is to reflect on the methodology of the study and acknowledge your comfort level with the data being shared. For example, despite appearing in peer-reviewed journals, some curriculum leaders expressed doubt in trusting studies they felt might have been funded or conducted by those with a vested interest in the materials being studied. Since researchers continue to explore the effectiveness of both NSF-funded and commercially-developed materials, be sure to ask colleagues, regional support centers, state leaders, etc., about any studies that may be in progress or recently published. Interviewed curriculum leaders also found it helpful to gather anecdotal evidence on the effectiveness and use of different curriculum programs from surrounding districts, as well as state achievement results to see which districts were having success with which programs.

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