Does calculation or word-problem instruction provide a stronger route to pre-algebraic knowledge?
The focus of this study was connections among 3 aspects of mathematical cognition at 2nd grade: calculations, word problems, and prealgebraic knowledge. We extended the literature, which is dominated by correlational work, by examining whether intervention conducted on calculations or word problems contributes to improved performance in the other domain and whether intervention in either or both domains contributes to prealgebraic knowledge. Participants were 1,102 children in 127 second-grade classrooms in 25 schools. Teachers were randomly assigned to 3 conditions: calculation intervention, word-problem intervention, and business-as-usual control. Intervention, which lasted 17 weeks, was designed to provide research-based linkages between arithmetic calculations or arithmetic word problems (depending on condition) and prealgebraic knowledge. Multilevel modeling suggested calculation intervention improved calculation but not word-problem outcomes; word-problem intervention enhanced word-problem but not calculation outcomes; and word-problem intervention provided a stronger route than calculation intervention to prealgebraic knowledge.