A Systematic Review of Research Syntheses on Students with Mathematics Learning Disabilities and Difficulties

Gena Nelson, Boise State University
Angela Crawford, Boise State University
Jessica Hunt, North Carolina State University
Soyoung Park, Western Kentucky University
Emily Leckie, Boise State University
Alex Duarte, North Carolina State University
Tasia Brafford, University of Oregon
Mary Ramos-Duke, Boise State University
Kary Zarate, University of Illinois at Chicago


The purpose of the systematic review of mathematics intervention syntheses was to identify patterns and gaps in content areas, instructional strategies, effect sizes, and definitions of learning disabilities (LD), mathematics LD (MLD), and mathematics difficulty (MD). Using rigorous inclusion criteria, we evaluated 36 syntheses that included 836 studies with 32,495 participants. Although each synthesis stated a focus on LD, MLD, or MD, few students with LD or MLD were included, and the authors’ operational definitions of disability and risk varied. Syntheses predominantly focused on word-problem solving, fractions, computer-assisted learning, and schema-based instruction. Wide variation in effectiveness, content areas, and instructional strategies was reported. Finally, our results indicate the majority of syntheses included achievement outcomes, but very few reported on other outcomes (e.g., social validity, strategy use). We discuss how the results of this comprehensive review can guide researchers in expanding the knowledgebase on mathematics interventions.