Computer-aided instruction can potentially improve student learning in prealgebra and algebra, partly because the technology gives teachers the ability to tailor instruction to children’s individual needs, a new study says.
The study, which appears in the February issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, found that students using a particular program called “I CAN Learn Education Systems” made gains in mathematics test scores. Those improvements were especially strong for students in large classes and those with high absentee rates.
Produced by JRL Enterprises, of New Orleans, the “I CAN Learn” prealgebra and algebra program uses computer software and hardware and includes a classroom-management tool for teachers.
The researchers’ randomized study began with 3,451 late-middle and early-high school students from 17 schools, who were given various tests. Achievement rose significantly for students who used the technology, according to the study.
Computer-assisted instruction “has the potential to significantly enhance student mathematics achievement in middle and high school,” the authors conclude, and could be easier, and potentially cheaper, for schools and districts to use than other math interventions.
The study’s authors are Lisa Barrow, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; Lisa Markman, the acting director of the Education Research Section at Princeton University; and Cecilia Elena Rouse, a professor of economics and public affairs, who is also at Princeton. Ms. Rouse also has been nominated to serve on President Barack Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The research was released as the federal What Works Clearinghouse, in a separate report posted online this month, found that “I CAN Learn” prealgebra and algebra had “positive effects” on student achievement. The clearinghouse’s report was based on a review of five studies of the program.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2009 edition of Education Week