Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jo Ann Cady

Committee Members

Colleen Gilrane, Schuyler Huck, Stewart Waters


This study documents an educational field experiment evaluating the effects of picture books on primary students’ mathematical achievement and their dispositions towards mathematics. The study involved 136 primary grade students from one elementary school in the southeastern region of the United States. The student population had an overrepresentation of students from minority backgrounds (91%), low socioeconomic status (93%) and English Language Learners (47%). During the 18-week treatment period, teacher participants from the treatment group received bi-weekly collaborative professional development regarding the use of picture books in mathematics instruction. The teachers in the control group followed their district’s mathematics curriculum.

To determine the effect of picture books on students’ mathematics achievement STAR gain scores and chapter tests were compared. This analysis revealed that students could learn mathematics when picture books were used. In fact, students in the treatment group demonstrated statistically significant mathematical achievement gains on the STAR assessment (p < .05). Compared to the increase from pretest to posttest in the control group, the increase in the treatment group was 40% larger. Similarly, kindergarten students in the treatment group demonstrated statistically significant higher mathematical achievement on all chapter tests (p <.01), yet a null treatment effect was found for first and second grade students as measured by chapter tests. Analysis of STAR gain scores (first and second grade) revealed no significant treatment between subgroups based on gender, ethnicity, or ELL status. However, the kindergarten chapter test data by subgroup revealed that the treatment had no effect by gender, higher effects for Black students as compared to Hispanic students, and that non-ELL students in both the treatment and control group had higher achievement than ELL students.

To determine if there was a relationship between students’ mathematical dispositions and the use of picture books in mathematics instruction, students’ selfreported disposition towards mathematics were recorded daily during six of the 18 weeks. The analysis comparing the treatment and control groups’ dispositions revealed that all students had relatively high dispositions towards mathematics and that the use of picture books did not significantly impact students’ positive dispositions towards mathematics.

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