This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examining Process-Driven Math: A User Centered Design and Universal Design for Learning Perspective




Gulley, Ann

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Many students with disabilities who are capable of learning math find limited success because the tools they are using to access mathematical content are not well aligned with their range of abilities. Process-Driven Math (PDM) is a learning support tool that was initially developed for one student who is blind and unable to write or type. PDM uses chunking to simplify the landscape of complex algebraic expressions and reduce the cognitive load on working memory. The method employs a set of communication rules based on appropriate math vocabulary for accurately describing mathematical transformations verbally (Gulley et al., 2017). The PDM method was later adapted for visual learners who also need additional tools to succeed in mathematics. In this study, PDM was examined using both qualitative and experimental research designs. Qualitative research focused on the experiences of 25 students at three state schools for the blind who interacted with the fully audio PDM method during several class periods. Experimental research evaluated the differences in assessment performance of more than 650 students with and without difficulties related to several categories of disability who were randomly assigned to PDM and non-PDM treatment groups. This research was approached from both a User Centered Design and a Universal Design for Learning perspective. Findings indicate that cohorts of students at the schools for the blind are diverse groups who collectively require a broad range of tools to access mathematical content. Data indicates a preference for a PDM tool that incorporates visual and tactile elements that can be used or not at will by the student. The experimental data from post-secondary schools shows that students who reported difficulties with concentration scored higher on performance assessments when receiving PDM instruction as opposed to typical classroom instruction. The development of PDM is an ongoing, iterative process. The qualitative data from this study will direct improvements to PDM so it will better meet the needs and preferences of students who are blind or have visual impairments. The experimental data will be used to develop additional research models to further study PDM with students who report difficulties with concentration.