New Mathematics Study to Help Students with Learning Disabilities

Statistics show that only 8% of students with learning disabilities meet or exceed mathematics proficiency standards by the eighth grade, according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

SMU researcher, Leanne Ketterlin-Geller – along with University of Missouri College of Education’s Erica Lembke and University of Texas’ Sarah Powell want to improve that statistic. A new $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs will help this research team train teachers on the best practices for algebra readiness to support students with learning disabilities.

Project STAIR (Supporting Teaching of Algebra: Individualization and Readiness) will evaluate a system of instructional practices for supporting the algebra readiness of middle school students with learning disabilities in mathematics. Team members include Professor Leanne Ketterlin-Geller from Southern Methodist University, Professor Erica Lembke from the University of Missouri and Assistant Professor Sarah Powell from the University of Texas at Austin.

The research teams will work with middle school mathematics teachers and their students in four regions: mid Missouri, St. Louis area, Dallas area, and the Austin area. During this four-year grant, professional development and coaching will be provided to teachers on both algebraic reasoning content for middle school students with learning disabilities and pedagogy for how to teach algebraic skills.

“This project will allow us to develop supports for teachers’ instructional practices in algebra, not only how they teach, but also deepen their own content knowledge in a way that allows them to impact all students in this critical area, but particularly students with learning disabilities. We’re eager to get started on this important work,” said Dr. Ketterlin-Geller.

For more information, contact Dr. Ketterlin-Geller at, or visit the project website.


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