What is the study about?

We want to evaluate the impact of using MathByExample assignments throughout the year compared to traditional practice assignments to determine whether the MathByExample approach improves students’ math outcomes. While the assignments have been piloted in prior studies, we want to study whether the assignments are effective at a larger scale in a different setting.

What happens in the study?

4th and 5th Grade teachers will be randomly assigned to a group. Teachers in the MathByExample group will integrate MathByExample  assignments throughout the year as a supplement or replacement to traditional math practice activities (either in class or as homework). Teachers in the control group will not make any changes to their math instruction. All participating classes will take assessments and surveys; districts will provide data that we’ll use to measure student learning.

Does any research support this approach?

Yes! Prior research suggests that explaining correct and incorrect worked examples helps students learn math (e.g, Sweller, 1999; Renkl et al. 1998; Adams et al, 2014). Earlier studies using the MathByExample hard copy worksheets found that explaining correct and incorrect examples can be effective for students in upper elementary school. A previous study tested the effect of worked examples in Algebra assignments (AlgebraByExample), too, and found significantly improved student learning.

Who is conducting this study?

WestEd is carrying out this study, in collaboration with The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) and Temple University. WestEd is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research, development, and service agency, which works with education and other communities throughout the United States and abroad to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults.

SERP  is a nonprofit organization that generates innovative solutions through partnerships with researchers, practitioners, and designers.

This study is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science.

I’m interested, but I’m worried participating will be too much extra work.

The MathByExample materials are designed to supplement or replace other curriculum materials – so think of them as classroom-ready assignments you can use whenever your students need some extra practice, without having to spend time searching for other materials. The platform is straightforward and easy to use, so there’s no learning curve. Additional time commitments include weekly logs (5-10 min each), teacher background surveys (15-30 min, one time), and administering student surveys.

What if I end up being a control teacher, but still want to try the materials?

Control teachers will get access to the digital MathByExample materials in the year after they participate in the study! So, you will still get free access to the workbooks and digital materials, just later.

What do I have to do to participate?

Participating entails using MathByExample assignments in any order and manner that fits your instruction and administering learning check-ins with your students a few times a year. In addition, you will be asked to complete weekly logs and a few background surveys, listed in the table below.

From TeachersProfessional background surveyFall
Weekly logsWeekly
End of year surveySpring
Teacher data collection measures

How do students complete the assignments?

Students will complete the assignments through an easy-to-use online platform or in physical workbooks – choose what suits your class!

When should I use the assignments?

You can use the assignments whenever makes the most sense for you. Although iYou can use the assignments whenever makes the most sense for your instruction and schedule. You may use them as practice for when you teach the content or as review before a test or before you teach more advanced content. Although intended for math class, you can use the assignments at anytime throughout the day, such as homeroom or during a workshop period.

How often should I use the assignments?

There’s no set frequency—just whenever the assignments align to the content you’re teaching. You may decide to use an assignment over two days or to use two assignments in one day. There may be weeks where none of the assignments align to what you’re teaching, but other weeks when many of the assignments will fit well. On average, completing 2-3 assignments per week throughout the year would allow you to use all of the assignments with your students.

How long do the assignments take?

Assignments are designed to take about 15-20 minutes to complete.

Can I let my students work on the assignments together?

Yes. Many teachers have let us know that they find the assignments most beneficial when students work on the assignments together, since students start discussing the mathematics.

Do students have to answer the questions?

Research shows that at least attempting to answer the questions improves learning, so we suggest encouraging students to at least try to answer each question.

Do I have to use all of the assignments?

MathByExample was designed to be flexible— use as many or as few assignments as you like! However, past research has shown that the more students are exposed to worked examples the better! Also, note that you don’t have to use them all when first teaching the content—you can use them at any time throughout the year, such as a refresher when reviewing for spring standardized tests.

What if I don’t teach the content that some of the assignments cover?

The developers did their best to align the content of the assignments to the CommonCore State Standards for each grade, but if you don’t teach some of the content, don’t feel obligated to use the assignments. Scope and sequence are expected to be different  in different districts and different schools.

What if I no longer want or am able to participate?

Participation is 100% voluntary and you can withdraw at any point without consequence. Stipends will be prorated for the amount of time in the study.