Brown Bag Lecture Series: Dake Zhang

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 11:45am - 1:00pm

GSE Lecture Hall (room 124)

Brown Bag Lecture Series



Helping students with mathematics difficulties to learn fractions: Focusing on the concept of units

Dake Zhang

Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, Rutgers GSE

Researchers have identified that the ability of unit coordination is a shared cognitive necessity for conceptualizing multiple mathematics topics, including fraction and ratio concepts and proportional reasoning (Hackenberg & Tillema, 2009; Steffe & Olive, 2010).  In this presentation, an intervention study and a testing accommodation study, both aimed to improve students’ skills of unit coordination, will be reported. The first study examined effects of a unit-coordination intervention in middle schoolers with mathematics difficulties, and compared the effects of presenting students with varying lengths of units to a fixed length of units.  Both groups improved fraction skills, and the group exposed to varying lengths of units made greater gains on ratios and proportions. In the second study, we examined the effects of two accommodation strategies that aimed at helping students with mathematics difficulties to construct the concept of units and improve their fraction performance, and found that providing warming-up multiplicative reasoning tasks as an accommodation strategy could help students with mathematics difficulties to improve their fraction problem solving performance.


Dake Zhang is an Associate Professor of Special Education in the Department of Educational Psychology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She taught mathematics in China and is a certified special educator in the United States. Dr. Zhang’s primary area of research focuses on assessment, accommodation, and intervention for students with math learning disabilities. Dr. Zhang received the Spencer Postdoc Fellowship (2016, Spencer Foundation) and the Outstanding Asian American Research Award (2017, Chou Y-P Foundation). She has published over 30 research papers in top-tier special education journals and book chapters. Dr. Zhang is on the editorial board of the Journal of Disability Policy Studies (2011- present) and Learning Disability Quarterly (2017 - present). She served as a panelist for NSF in 2014 and 2016, as a reviewer for IES in 2018, and as a guest editor for the Journal of Mathematics Behavior and Learning Disability Quarterly.

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Colleen McDermott