Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development


In response to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, teachers were challenged to develop and execute lessons that incorporated both mathematical concepts and accessible skills for real world application. This legislation, motivated by a desire to increase standards and accountabilities, was the impetus for the adoption of curriculum that requires the memorization of formulas and concepts as well as the ability to reach mathematical conclusions through reasoning and investigation. Many school districts have begun to take a look at the way math instruction is taught in the classroom. Historical perspectives reveal direct teaching methods as the foundation of the teaching style of the past while educators today recognize the need to seek more engaging and interactive instruction for their students. Beyond concern for acquired concepts is the equal desire to relieve any anxiety about math processes and ignite student motivation in this subject area. This thesis project explores the question, how do teachers present math concepts in a clear and concise manner that allows students to focus on the individual steps of a process rather than the process as a whole? The purpose of this study determines the effectiveness of using visuals and manipulatives to teach math in an eighth grade, self-contained classroom.

The research author created and implemented a visually rich math program. This program was then used for a 4 week period to study potential increased student comprehension and reasoning in math. The special education class setting for the study was part of an urban school district in western New York. The self-contained class met five days a week, four days at forty-two minutes and one day at 30 minutes. The study implementation consisted of a direct teaching method, utilizing visuals to explore the concepts of multiplication and division of numbers, focusing on the strategies used to solve each concept. Students were provided with visual aids that contained strategies and pertinent vocabulary and could then also be used as references for their work. Conclusions for the study are drawn from analysis of bi-weekly grade reports, progress reports, anecdotal records, tests and assessments. The collected data supports the importance and reality that students exposed to an instructional plan that includes manipulatives and visuals show an increase in grade point average and a sense of student success. Students felt less anxious and expressed a motivation to learn rather than to avoid learning. The researcher's observation showed students were more engaged and less confrontational or agitated during math instruction. This behavioral shift supports the current research findings that when students become active participants in the lesson their motivational level increases and they begin to take a vested interest in their learning.


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