Efficacy Study of an Integrated Digital Elementary School Mathematics Curriculum

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Efficacy Study of an Integrated Digital Elementary School Mathematics Curriculum

SRI's Center for Technology in Learning is conducting a multi-year study that examines whether and how an elementary digital math curriculum can improve student learning.

The need to improve students’ mathematics achievement is well recognized. Late elementary school is a particularly important intervention point because the building blocks for algebra, such as fractions and mathematical expressions, are emphasized in the curriculum. In addition, the transition from print to digital materials means that a wave of new curriculum adoptions will occur—and states, districts, and schools nationwide will be deciding which new digital mathematics materials to buy.

Reasoning Mind offers blended online and face-to-face instruction for fifth-grade mathematics, with integrated teacher professional development and implementation support. Students independently solve mathematics problems on a computer, while receiving frequent feedback, instructional support, and remote tutoring. The digital curriculum is designed to keep the students’ level of engagement high throughout the instructional period through interactive features such as animations and game scores. Teachers lead periodic classroom discussions on key mathematical topics, and also receive easy-to-read reports on classroom and students’ individual progress. This data can help teachers identify individual students who might be struggling and provide them with targeted support during class time.

Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education, SRI's Center for Technology in Learning is conducting an efficacy study on impact of this digital curriculum on students' mathematics learning. The two-year randomized controlled trial research study is being performed in collaboration with Reasoning Mind and McREL International. Launched in fall 2014, the study involves about 3,500 fifth-grade students from 47 schools in the state of West Virginia. Half of the schools were randomly assigned to the treatment group and the rest to the control group. Treatment schools use Reasoning Mind as their core curriculum, while schools in the control group continue with their existing traditional textbooks and practices. The goal of the study is to understand the impact of the Reasoning Mind digital curriculum on student achievement, classroom implementation, and teacher practice over a full school year.

This study is the first rigorous randomized controlled trial in the U.S. on the use of digital curriculum in elementary school mathematics learning. SRl will measure the impact on students' mathematics achievement, looking at improvement both on required state tests and against international recognized test benchmarks. We seek to understand if all students benefit, or if online learning works best in particular settings or for particular kinds of students.