# Fifth Grade Students’ Understanding of Ratio and Proportion in an Engineering Robotics Program

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The research described in this study explores the impact of utilizing a LEGO-robotics integrated engineering and mathematics program to support fifth grade students’ learning of ratios and proportion in an extracurricular program. One of the research questions guiding this research study was “how do students’ test results compare for students learning ratio and proportion concepts within the LEGO‐robotics integrated engineering and mathematics program versus when using a non-engineering textbook‐based mathematics program?” A mixed method repeated measures experiment with a control group was conducted. The subjects were 30 fifth grade students from a large urban school district who participated in one of two intervention programs, a LEGO‐robotics integrated engineering and mathematics program (experimental) versus a non-engineering textbook-based mathematics program (control). The understanding of ratio and proportion through numerical computation was measured using the Intra‐Mathematical Proportional Reasoning Test (Intra‐Prop). The understanding of ratio and proportion in general‐context mathematical word problems was measured using the Extra‐Mathematical Proportional Reasoning Test in a General Context (Extra-Prop) and the understanding of ratio and proportion in a LEGO engineering context was measured using a mathematical tool called Extra-Mathematical Proportional Reasoning Test in an Engineering Context (Engin-Prop). Students’ understanding of select basic engineering and mathematics definitions was measured using the Background and Definitions Test (Definitions Test). Data collected included classroom video, student interviews and written mathematical assessments of ratio and proportion problems in the four forms defined above, using repeated measures across three time periods-- prior to the beginning of the intervention programs, after the conclusion of the intervention program and ten weeks after the conclusion of the intervention program. The results of this study indicated that all students were able to make significant progress in learning new concepts of ratio and proportion as a result of participating in the intervention program learning experiences. Experimental students’ performance on the Intra-Prop was not significantly higher than that of the control students’ performance. However, experimental students’ performance on the Extra-Prop, Engin-Prop, and Definitions tests was significantly higher than that of the control students, indicating that students that learn about ratio and proportion in an engineering related context improve in their understanding significantly and retain their learning for a longer period of time when they encounter these situations in an extra-mathematical context versus in an intra-mathematical context. In addition, and of special note to practitioners, is the fact that students in the experimental group were able to learn at least as much and as well (if not more) the mathematics content of ratio and proportion as compared to the control group of students, and in addition, within the same amount of time, control group students learned and retained engineering and related ratio and proportion mathematics concepts.

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Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching

Engineering Education