A Pilot Study: Using Visual Supports to Teach Algebraic Problem Solving Skills to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
My Barrett Honors Thesis Paper synthesizes three components of my Thesis Project, which demonstrates the process of developing strong research from the beginning stage of investigation of a problem to implementation of an intervention to address that problem. Specifically, I engaged in research on the topic of mathematics and students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). My review of the literature demonstrated a current dearth in the knowledge on effective interventions in math for this population of students. As part of my project, I developed and implemented an intervention to address the problem and help improve the knowledge base in the fields of autism and mathematics. Through the initial research process it was determined that students with autism spectrum disorders are being included more frequently in the general educational setting, and are therefore increasingly expected to access and master core curricular content, including mathematics. However, mathematics often presents challenges to students with ASD. Therefore, the first part of my Thesis Project is a comprehensive literature review that synthesized eleven studies of mathematics intervention strategies for students with ASD. Researching the current literature base for mathematics interventions that have been implemented with students with ASD and finding only eleven studies that met the inclusionary criteria led to the writing of the second part of my Thesis Project. In this second portion, I present how three research-based practices for students with autism, self-management, visual supports, and peer-mediated instruction, can be implemented in the context of teaching a higher-level mathematics skill, algebraic problem solving, specifically to students with ASD. By employing such strategies, teachers can assist their students with ASD to benefit more fully from mathematics interventions, which in turn may help them strengthen their mathematics skills, increase independence when completing problems, and use acquired skills in community or other applied settings. As part of the second portion of my Thesis Project, I developed a visual support strategy called COSMIC (a mnemonic device to guide learners through the steps of algebraic problem solving) to help aid students with ASD when solving simple linear equations. With the goal of contributing to the current research base of mathematics interventions that can support students with ASD, for the final part of Thesis Project I worked with a local middle school teacher to assist her in implementing our COSMIC intervention with her student with ASD. Results indicated the student improved in his algebraic problem solving skills, which suggests additional interventions with students with ASD to be recommended as part of future research.