Strategic Development for Middle Schoolers Struggling with Using Number Lines to Solve Fraction Problems: Assessment and Intervention
Dake Zhang

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Rutgers University

Primary Discipline

Special Education
Although it is intuitively appealing to expect students with mathematics disabilities to better understand fractions through the use of visual representations, not all visual representations contain the same features. Many students with learning disabilities in mathematics struggle with understanding visual representations that contain abstract features, such as number lines. In the two successive studies focusing on number line strategies for fraction problem solving, I propose an assessment-intervention link that could produce an individualized strategy training intervention program based on an understanding of students’ existing number line strategies and misconceptions. In study 1, I will assess the number line strategies for solving fraction problems between students with and without Mathematics Learning Disabilities (MLD) at different grade levels, to describe the differential strategic developmental trajectory between the two groups and identify the common faulty strategies in students with MLD. Based on the results of Study 1, I will then develop an individualized intervention for transitioning students with MLD from the existing faulty strategies to more advanced number line strategies for learning fractions. Findings will illuminate how specific difficulties that students with MLD encounter with using abstract visual representations (e.g., number lines), and will inform educators, researchers, and policymakers of the significance of this issue, and shed light on how to provide individualized interventions to address students’ existing misconceptions in using number lines and transition the students with MLD to advanced strategies.
About Dake Zhang
Dake Zhang is an assistant professor of Special Education in the Department of Educational Psychology at Rutgers University. She taught mathematics in China and is a certified special educator in the U.S.A. Dr. Zhang’s primary area of research focuses on understanding the cognitive deficits and developmental trajectories of students with mathematics learning disabilities, especially those struggling with mathematics problems that require visual and spatial skills, such as geometry, number lines, and the coordinate plane. She aims to provide effective accommodations and interventions to help these students. Dr. Zhang has published over 30 book chapters and research papers in top tier special education journals, including the Journal of Special Education, the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Learning Disability Quarterly, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, Journal of Educational Research, and the Journal of Teacher Education. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Disability Policy Studies. Dr. Zhang completed her undergraduate studies at Beijing Normal University, received her Ph.D. in Special Education from Purdue University in 2011, and taught at Clemson University in 2011-2012.

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