A comparison of content-based and context-based teaching on ninth-grade mathematics achievement

Charlene Lynn Olicker, Florida International University


The purpose of this study was to determine if an experimental context-based delivery format for mathematics would be more effective than a traditional model for increasing the performance in mathematics of at-risk students in a public high school of choice, as evidenced by significant gains in achievement on the standards-based Mathematics subtest of the FCAT and final academic grades in Algebra I. The guiding rationale for this approach is captured in the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report of 1992 that resulted in school-to-work initiatives (United States Department of Labor). Also, the charge for educational reform has been codified at the state level as Educational Accountability Act of 1971 (Florida Statutes, 1995) and at the national level as embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. A particular focus of educational reform is low performing, at-risk students. This dissertation explored the effects of a context-based curricular reform designed to enhance the content of Algebra I content utilizing a research design consisting of two delivery models: a traditional content-based course; and, a thematically structured, content-based course. In this case, the thematic element was business education as there are many advocates in career education who assert that this format engages students who are often otherwise disinterested in mathematics in a relevant, SCANS skills setting. The subjects in each supplementary course were ninth grade students who were both low performers in eighth grade mathematics and who had not passed the eighth grade administration of the standards-based FCAT Mathematics subtest. The sample size was limited to two groups of 25 students and two teachers. The site for this study was a public charter school. Student-generated performance data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results indicated that contrary to the beliefs held by many, contextual presentation of content did not cause significant gains in either academic performance or test performance for those in the experimental treatment group. Further, results indicated that there was no meaningful difference in performance between the two groups.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Mathematics education

Recommended Citation

Olicker, Charlene Lynn, "A comparison of content-based and context-based teaching on ninth-grade mathematics achievement" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3206031.