About Pirate Math Equation Quest
We developed Pirate Math Equation Quest as an extension of the Pirate Math program developed by Lynn Fuchs, Ph.D., and her colleagues at Vanderbilt University.
From 2015 to 2019, we provided third-grade students experiencing mathematics difficulty with an intensive word-problem intervention called Pirate Math Equation Quest. During Pirate Math Equation Quest, students received explicit instruction on reading, interpreting, setting up, and solving word problems with a focus on schemas. Students also received modeling and practice related to understanding the equal sign and equation solving within the word-problem intervention.
We identified eligible students experiencing mathematics difficulty as those scoring at or below the 13th percentile on a measure of word problems. During 2015-2018, our first three cohorts of students in Pirate Math Equation Quest: Individual Word-Problem Intervention With Total, Difference, and Change Schemas received the word-problem intervention 3 times per week, for 16 weeks, with sessions lasting approximately 30 minutes.
With our final cohort of students in 2018-2019, we introduced Pirate Math Equation Quest: Small-Group Word-Problem Intervention With Total, Difference, Change, and Equal Groups Schemas as a small-group word-problem intervention in which groups of 3–4 students received the word-problem intervention 3 times per week, for 13 weeks, with sessions lasting approximately 30 minutes. Our final cohort of students also received a small-group intervention focused on understanding word problems in the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). Students in Pirate Math Equation Quest: Small-Group Intervention for Texas Word Problems in the Grade 3 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) received word-problem intervention 3 times per week, for 6 weeks, with sessions lasting approximately 30 minutes.
Rigorous evaluations of all three iterations of Pirate Math Equation Quest indicated that third-grade students experiencing mathematics difficulty demonstrated improved word-problem performance with Pirate Math Equation Quest compared to students who did not participate in the intervention (Powell, Berry, & Barnes, 2019).
Katherine A. Berry is a project manager at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at The University of Texas at Austin. She manages the Pirate Math Equation Quest project, funded by the Institute for Education Sciences. Berry completed her doctoral degree in the Department of Special Education and Disability Studies at The George Washington University. Previously, Berry taught students in grades 4 to 6 with high-incidence learning disabilities in Washington, D.C. Berry’s research interests include students with specific learning disabilities, mathematics word-problem solving, mathematics vocabulary, language acquisition, curriculum development, teacher training, and arts-integrated instruction.
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Sarah R. Powell is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Powell acts as principal investigator of the Institute of Education Sciences grant that funds Pirate Math Equation Quest. Powell also works on research funded by the T. L. L. Temple Foundation, National Science Foundation, Office of Special Education Programs, and Texas Education Agency. Powell was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2019. A former kindergarten teacher, Powell is excited to help teachers improve the mathematics instruction of students experiencing mathematics difficulty.
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