This research studies a mathematics acquisition model that describes how adolescents with learning disabilities solve meaningful mathematics problems. The proposed model differs from current instructional practices by acknowledging the intuitions and skills that students with learning disabilities often have, but seldom get to use in school settings. The investigation centers primarily on the ability of students to invent, apply, and transfer strategies to problems situated in authentic contexts. A secondary yet critical objective of the research documents changes in how teachers and students perceive and act on their beliefs in these contexts. Unlike many studies in which the goal is to find ways that students can improve their skills on decontextualized problems, this study emphasizes application of mathematics knowledge on authentic and near-authentic work situations.
National commissions and business leaders have pointed to the converging data that show growing numbers of students unable to reach basic levels of mathematics understanding, especially students identified with learning disabilities. Often, instruction for these students focuses on rudimentary math skills that are well below what is necessary for personal and vocational fulfillment. The vision of this project is to use an integrated learning and teaching model to help uncover, explain, and demonstrate how teachers and students can reverse this trend.