Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Curriculum and Instruction


Riccomini, Paul J.

Committee Member

Horton , Robert

Committee Member

Igo , Brent

Committee Member

Witzel , Bradley


Recent accountability requirements increase the emphasis on mathematics achievement for all students, including low-performing students and students with learning disabilities. However, these students progress very slowly, with weaknesses evident in computation and problem solving. These limitations affect their success in mathematics at lower grades and make earning a high school diploma difficult. It is imperative to isolate components of mathematics comprehension and identify methods to teach them in order to help these lower performing students be successful. Research indicates a strong relationship between vocabulary and mathematical comprehension, identifying vocabulary understanding as a key component in understanding the subject. Vocabulary instruction incorporating mnemonic strategies has consistently resulted in substantial increases in learning and retention for students with disabilities as well as nondisabled peers when compared with other approaches.
The research reported here focused on the use of keyword mnemonics in mathematics vocabulary instruction. This mixed model multi-strand study with a quasi-experimental quantitative design tested for significant differences between groups on a vocabulary assessment and conducted a repeated measures analysis of variance was on two levels of instruction (direct instruction versus keyword mnemonic instruction) and across three measures (pretest, posttest, and follow-up). Although both groups did show significant improvements, the students who participated in the keyword mnemonic classes outperformed the students in the direct instruction classes as measured on the both the posttest and the follow-up test of the vocabulary assessment. There was no significant difference between the groups on overall mathematics achievement as measured by Curriculum-Based Measurement probes or on attitudes toward mathematics. The qualitative data identified a relationship between the use of elaboration techniques, level of performance, and conceptual misunderstandings. However, as always, the effective use of any retrieval technique is dependent on the accuracy of the information encoded.