How Digital Tools Can Transform Learning Math
Many children struggle to learn and understand mathematics. Current math instruction focuses on memorizing abstract rules. While knowledge of mathematical concepts is important, many children are not able to grasp these abstract concepts. This is in part due to memory demands, and a lack of resources to “show” students what these abstract rules mean.
An approach to resolving these issues with instruction in classrooms is by using digital tools. This approach offers a way to visualize and physically interact with numbers and equations to grasp mathematical concepts. With the rise of children using technology at earlier ages, using digital tools for teaching purposes offers a way to maintain engagement with familiar information platforms.
Have Digital Tools for Learning Math Been Researched?
Yes. A research study conducted at a suburban public middle school in the United States used an experimental digital program called From Here 2 There (FH2T). FH2T was designed to teach children algebraic concepts by using an interactive platform that allows children to move numbers and expressions with their fingers.
FH2T has two modes: retrieval and fluid. The retrieval mode requires students to use their memory to correctly recall and solve algebraic expressions. The fluid mode requires students to touch numbers and symbols in order to solve an equation at hand.
Piloting was done to determine if FH2T improved learning in middle school students. The pilot study of FH2T demonstrated that the use of the platform did raise student’s grades by one full letter grade.
Researchers examined the effects of FH2T over six 30-minute class periods in a middle school setting. Researchers were interested if there were any differences between fluid visualization or retrieval practices using FH2T. Standard mathematical instruction served as the control condition for the study.
What Were The Results of This Study?
1st: Students in the fluid visualization condition gained more understanding of algebra than students in the retrieval practice condition. There was no difference between retrieval and standard instruction conditions.
2nd: The more levels (“worlds”) students completed, the better their retention and application was of algebraic skills as assessed by a post-test. However, when exposure time to the program was considered, these differences weren’t significant anymore.
3rd: The more students had been exposed to algebraic concepts before, the better their post-test scores were. This means that prior knowledge or experience with concepts significantly impacts one’s ability to remember apply similar or related concepts.
What Does This Mean for My Clients?
It means you may want to look at using digital tools to aid with math instruction for your clients struggling to learn math concepts.
Researchers found strong learning gains from using FH2T. The use of using tablet-based methods for mathematical instruction has gained more attention as a connection with interactive material offers more engagement and representation of concepts. More work needs to be done to examine dosage effects, but this study sheds light that using interactive technology may offer a solution for decreasing the obstacles young students have grasping mathematical concepts. FH2T is being tested across American schools to gain further data and understanding of how children learn and retain mathematical concepts.
Citation: Ottmar, E., Landy, D., Goldstone, R. L., & Weitnauer, E. (2015). Getting From Here to There!: Testing the Effectiveness of an Interactive Mathematics Intervention Embedding Perceptual Learning. In CogSci.