Education

Study: Hybrid Algebra Program ‘Nearly Doubled’ Math Learning

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 20, 2013 3 min read

From guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Students who used a mathematics program that blends online learning and in-class instruction in algebra significantly improved their performance in the subject, finds new study funded by the U.S. Department of Education and carried out by the RAND Corporation and Educational Testing Service.

This two-year study, one of the largest conducted by the Education Department in the last nine years, involved over 17,000 students and 375 teachers from 147 schools in seven states for two years. Six million dollars were dedicated toward the randomized, controlled experiment, which featured Carnegie Learning’s Cognitive Tutor Algebra I. The Education Department’s Institute of Education Sciences focused on Cognitive Tutor as one of the oldest and most commonly used hybrid-learning curricula in the country.

While the first year showed no significant results, in the second year the students who were taught algebra through the Carnegie Learning program improved their performance by 8 percentile points. Steve Ritter, a founder and the chief scientist of Carnegie Learning, in Pittsburgh, equated the results to a doubling of the amount of math learning a student achieves during a year of high school.

The improvements were similar across students of different ethnic and socioeconomic background, and high, regular, and low initial math ability, Ritter said. The researchers found similar improvements among participating middle school students—higher-performing math students typically take algebra in 8th grade rather than in high school—though the middle school sample was not large enough to show significant effects in the same way as the high school students.

In the United States, only 35 percent of 8th grade students are proficient in math—trailing their counterparts in Korea, Russia, and Finland, among other nations, on international comparisons.

“Many view our international standing as inadequate, so there’s been a lot of interest and effort in improvement,” said John F. Pane, a senior scientist at the Santa Monica, Calif.-based RAND Corporation and one of the study’s authors.

Beyond Math Drills

The researchers attempted to ensure the results of formal intervention studies would translate into real classroom experience by providing “no special support” to the urban, suburban, and rural schools trying to use the curriculum. “It was implemented in a realistic fashion,” Pane said. “When schools implement curricula on their own, it’s not always exactly as it is as intended. So, when you judge results in that kind of environment, they’re more likely to translate and be usable by other schools around the country.”

In the Carnegie Learning tutor program, students typically worked with the software’s individualized tutorial program for two days each week and received traditional classroom instruction the other three days. This instruction included group work and problem-solving activities.

More commonly, middle school math students to use computers only for basic drills, according to an analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It found that less than a quarter of students used computers to work with spreadsheets or geometric figures and only 17 percent used statistical programs. The Carnegie program, on the other hand, sidesteps basic drills in favor of a cognitive approach aimed at helping students gain a deeper understanding of concepts.

A federal survey also shows that African-American and low-income students are significantly more likely to use computers for math drills than white students or those from higher-income families.

“There’s a lot of investment and experimentation in education technology happening now, and there’s not a lot of evidence to guide educators and policymakers on what to do and what are the most effective ways to use it,” Pane said.

As more schools look to incorporate technology into the curriculum, researchers said that their findings may be useful in helping those schools determine the kinds of blended-learning programs that might be linked to better learning outcomes before making an investment in them.

Pane said, “Continued support for this kind of research is important so that we have good solid evidence of what programs to adopt.”

Sarah D. Sparks contributed to this post.

Want more research news? Follow @SarahDSparks on Twitter for the latest studies, and join the conversation.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Events

School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Clinical Director
Garden Prairie, IL, US
Camelot Education
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read