Published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Martin Hassler and colleagues carried out a randomized controlled trial of a mathematics intervention on tablets (iPads).
The trial involved 283 low-performing second graders spread across 27 urban schools in Sweden. The children were randomized to four groups as follows:
- A group participated in a math intervention called Chasing Planets, consisting of 261 planets on a space map, each with a unique math exercise (addition or subtraction up to 12). Students practiced for 20 minutes a day.
- A group participated in the math intervention combined with working memory training, where students spent an additional 10 minutes each day on working memory tasks.
- A placebo group who practiced mostly reading tasks on the tablet (again for 20 minutes each day), including Chasing Planets-Reading, which had a similar format to the math intervention.
- A control group who received no intervention, not even on improving their skills on the tablets.
The intervention lasted for around 20 weeks, with children completing nine measures at pre- and post-test, and then after 6 and 12 months. It was found that
- Both math conditions scored significantly higher (ES = +0.53–0.67) than the control and placebo groups on the post-test of basic arithmetic, but not on measures of arithmetic transfer or problem solving. There was no additional benefit of the working memory training.
- The effects faded at the 6-month follow-up (ES = +0.18–0.28) and even more so after 12 months (ES = +0.03–0.13)
- IQ was a significant moderator of direct and long-term effects, such that children with lower IQ benefited more than higher IQ students.
- Socioeconomic factors did not moderate outcomes.
The authors regarded that additional math training on tablets, based on behavior analysis and adaptive technology, was a less costly way to increase low performing students’ math skills. They recommended further studies to explore ways to maintain the effects.
Source: Hassler Hallstedt, M., Klingberg, T., & Ghaderi, A. (2018). Short and long-term effects of a mathematics tablet intervention for low performing second graders. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(8), 1127–1148.