The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type

Starred Paper

Degree Name

Special Education: M.S.


Special Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Marc Markell

Second Advisor

Jerry Wellik

Third Advisor

Susan Haller

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

autism, special education, math, academic needs, project-based learning, problem- based learning, direct instruction


The attention toward the mathematics achievement of U.S. students in general education, when they took the national and international assessments, has risen (Przychodzin et al., 2004). However, a limited amount of research focusing on effective mathematics instruction was completed (Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002).

Mathematics is an important academic area for students with disabilities, including autism, because people with disabilities can increase work or volunteering opportunities and enrich their post-secondary life if they perform functional math skills well (Brown & Snell, 2000). However, Su et al. (2010) described that few studies focusing on learning strategies to support students with autism have been done. Specifically, research on mathematics for students with autism is significantly limited, although some studies in reading were done (National Research Council [NRC], 2001).

The purpose of this paper was to review the literature that studied the effectiveness of Direct Instruction (DI) and Problem-/Project-based Learning (PBL) for students with low-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in math. Eleven studies were chosen for review that evaluated the effectiveness of DI and PBL. The foci of this paper are: characteristics of ASD, instructional requirements or needs for students with low-functioning ASD, higher order of thinking, and the differences of effectiveness of DI and PBL.



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