Study Shows Algebra iPad App Improves Scores in One School

| January 23, 2012 | 5 Comments
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Students at Presidio Middle School use the HMH iPad algebra app.

As Apple pushes out its new education products, new information about whether using the iPad gives students an advantage over using print books is starting to surface.

Results from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s year-long study comparing students using the publisher’s iPad algebra app are in from Amelia Earhart school in Riverside, Calif., and it’s largely positive, according to the company.

The study showed that 78 percent of students who used the HMH algebra iPad app scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the California Standards Test, compared to 59 percent of students who used the textbook version. “As students were randomly assigFuse, the results indicated that use of the app was the chief cause behind the improvement in student test scores,” the report states.

HMH

Some of the advantages of the app, according to the report:

  • Allowed parents to provide more support to their children: “Parents could watch the videos or review problems with their children to help them if they did not understand.”
  • Students were much more motivated during class and were more interested in the subject.
  • Changes in student learning outside of the classroom. Students reported reading more and trying to work independently outside of class when completing homework. Also, students were coming to class explaining that they had watched the video multiple times at home.

MindShift covered the pilot project when it first launched last year at the Presidio Middle School in San Francisco.

Algebra teacher Jeanetta Mitchell, who piloted the app in her class, said at the time that there was definitely an adjustment period and different levels of expectations, both on the part of students and administrators.

She said that when the pilot first launched, test scores for the class using the iPad were actually lower than those using the traditional textbook.

“I had a conversation with the class explaining to them that the iPad was not the panacea of all ills. It wasn’t going to do everything for them, that they still had to think,” she said. “You have to be engaged. It’s not giving you the answers; it’s helping you get the answers.”

But even more importantly than scores, Mitchell noticed that some students who’d showed no interest in math in the past are hooked. “I have students who are participating in this class who did not participate in their previous math classes, so it does engage them,” she says. “Is it going to make them all brainiacs and straight A students? No it’s not going to do that. But it will keep them engaged.”

[UPDATE: Empirical Education was hired by HMH to oversee a comprehensive year-long study that included four school districts. The results reported above are only from Riverside USD's own concurrent research. The results from Empirical Education have yet to be released. See more of an in-depth explanation of the study in the letter to the editor by Denis Newman at the end of this article.]

Read more about HMH Fuse Pilot study here.

 

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  • Jagarcia1

    I personally believe that anything with bright lights and buttons will spark anyone’s interest which will also keep them engaged. There is the downfall as the article mentioned that some students will use it as a way to get their answers or expect to get their answers from the app which is not the case. Students must first learn how to use the app so as not to be confused with what the app will do for them and then I believe that they will get the hang of it and help them with algebra which is a subject that all students should learn because studies have shown that students who take algebra in middle school or earlier are more likely to attend college and who doesn’t want that. I would love to get a hold of that app for my students but I think my third graders would have a hard time since we are only touching base on algebra at the moment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=557915836 Richard Taylor

    Interesting but I’m not sure I’d have much confidence in the results as presented for example the results may be statistically insignificant (19% especially when you apply the difference in differences approach). The HMH press release and the article also don’t say what size the 2 sample groups were nor how they were selected.

    More interesting to know would be:
    What sort of data did the experiment create? e.g. did the software use data to provide adaptive learning?
    Was relevant formative data able to be seen and used by the teacher(s)?

    This story seems more media spin than educational breakthrough.

    • anonymous

      You call 19% insignificant? That is a HUGE number!

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  • Jim_miller1258

    Tablets like the iPad have helped in making education more engaging, with
    their obvious benefits. Popularity of tablets and other mobile interfaces have
    made the role of educational apps increasingly significant which is evident
    from examples as above. But the tablet market is expanding by the day with new
    players making inroads into the space dominated by the iPad till now. So I
    think it’s essential for educational apps to be deliverable and adaptable
    across the segment. Something that OERs like CK12 FlexBooks have been able to
    do very well- delivering free educational content adaptable on any platform.
    This adaptability is the key which Apple is missing out on But that’s what it’s
    always done. Anyways, that’s for another time