The effects of cognitive strategy instruction on the mathematical problem solving of students with spina bifida

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Marjorie Montague, Committee Chair


This study investigated the effects of a mathematical problem solving strategy on the performance of students with spina bifida. Spina bifida is a developmental malformation of the central nervous system. The most common and severe form of spina bifida, myelomeningocele, (SBM) often results in a neurobehavioral deficit associated with functional impairments. SBM is a complicated series of neural insults that begin prior to birth, with persisting effects on development, including problems in the orthopedic, cognitive, and behavioral domains. Although, (SBM) is associated with a variety of brain abnormalities, a modal neural phenotype that includes anomalies of the cerebellum, midbrain, corpus callosum, and posterior cortex has been identified. Children with SBM typically demonstrate deficits in discourse, visual perceptual memory, attention and serial learning skills. Word recognition, spelling and rote memory are often intact but reading comprehension and mathematical skills are typically poor. Deficits with mathematical problem solving become more apparent with age, and as children with SBM become young adults, these mathematical deficits are likely to limit job opportunities and functional independence. This intervention study was designed to improve the mathematical problem solving abilities of students with spina bifida using cognitive strategy instruction. Three adolescents with SBM received explicit instruction in a cognitive strategy adapted from an established curriculum that was demonstrated to be effective in improving word problem solving skills for adolescents with math learning disabilities. A multiple baseline across subjects design was used to evaluate the effectiveness of cognitive strategy training. Results indicated problem solving performance on one- and two-step word problems improved for all students. Furthermore, maintenance of the treatment effect was evident across time for all three participants during an interval of one week and one month during which no treatment was received.


Education, Mathematics; Education, Special

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