Math on a tablet helps low-performing second graders, for a while
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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
Both math conditions scored significantly higher (effect size = +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 (effect size = +0.18-0.28) and even more so after 12 months (effect size = +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.

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