Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Daphne Greenberg

Second Advisor

Laura D. Fredrick

Third Advisor

Nannette Commander

Fourth Advisor

Phill Gagne


Jaye K. Luke

Numeracy skills are needed for daily living. For example, time management and budgeting are tasks that adults face on a frequent basis. Instruction for numeracy skills begins early and continues throughout childhood. Obtaining numeracy skills is difficult for some students. For example, there may be an inadequate fit between the student’s knowledge and the design of the instruction, the student may be unable to select an appropriate strategy for solving the problem, or the student may have a learning disability. Students with a learning disability comprise approximately 40% of identified children with disabilities who receive special education services (U.S. Department of Education, 2005).

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics helps teachers mediate the difficulties students may have in math. The council recommends problem solving and representation with physical objects as a teaching method. Chapter 1 presents a literature review on children with a learning disability, the use of manipulatives, and problem solving. The literature review indicates that children with a learning disability are poor problem solvers, but that further research is needed to investigate best instructional strategies. Chapter 2 presents a study on the impact of manipulatives on the accurate completion of money word problems. Three populations were included: adults who struggle with numeracy (n = 20), children with a learning disability (n = 20), and children who are typically developing (n = 23). Participants were administered a measure of 10 money word problems and were asked to solve them without the use of manipulatives. Participants were then randomly assigned to one of two groups: perceptually rich and perceptually bland manipulatives. Results indicate that none of the participants performed better with manipulatives than they performed without manipulatives. There was an interaction of Condition x Type of participant with the participants with a learning disability in the bland condition performing significantly worse than the other participants. More research is warranted to understand the impact of manipulative use in mathematics instruction for adults who struggle with numeracy, children with a learning disability, and children who are typically developing.