My thesis is a study of the long-term effects the ZeroSum ruler has on eleventh grade student understanding of negative integers. By eleventh grade, students should easily be able to answer “-22 + 5 =”, but on a diagnostic test given to 57 students, 40.35% of the students answered this problem incorrectly. Why does this matter? It matters because it shows that students did not learn the relationship between negative and positive numbers in elementary or middle school. By the time they get to me in eleventh grade and need to be fluent in equation manipulation, answering “-22 + 5 = -27″ is a real problem.
My thesis was set up the following way:
1: Diagnostic test: eight simple sums and differences of integers (ie: ’22 + 5=”) without a ZeroSum ruler or calculator
2: Introduction to the ZeroSum ruler with examples
3: Three activities, spaced out over 2 weeks, using the ZeroSum ruler
4: A post test within days of the last activity (no ZeroSum ruler or calculator)
5: A delayed retention test one month after the last activity (no ZeroSum ruler or calculator)
Because the attendance rates of students in Boston Public Schools is not the best, especially by the 11th and 12th grades, a subgroup of 31 students was identified who took the diagnostic test, participated in at least 2 of the 3 activities with the ZeroSum ruler, took the post test, and took the delayed retention test. The data shows a 62% decrease in student error from the diagnostic test to the delayed retention test. These results indicate that the ZeroSum ruler works to improve student comprehension long-term even without the ruler.
Pretty exciting stuff.