Maths on a tablet helps low-performing pupils, for a while

Published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Martin Hassler and colleagues carried out a randomised controlled trial or of a mathematics intervention on tablets (iPads).

The trial involved 283 low-performing second graders (Year 3) spread across 27 urban schools in Sweden. The children were randomised to four groups:

  • A maths intervention called Chasing Planets, consisting of 261 planets on a space map, each with a unique maths exercise (addition or subtraction up to 12). Pupils practised for 20 minutes a day.
  • The maths intervention combined with working memory training, where pupils spent an additional 10 minutes each day on working memory tasks.
  • A placebo group who practised mostly reading tasks on the tablet (again for 20 minutes each day), including Chasing Planets-Reading, which had a similar format to the maths intervention.
  • A control group who received no intervention, not even on improving their skills on the tablets.

The intervention lasted for around 20 weeks, with children completing nine measures at pre- and post-test, and then after six and 12 months.

Both maths conditions scored significantly higher (effect size = +0.53–0.67) than the control and placebo groups on the post-test of basic arithmetic, but not on measures of arithmetic transfer or problem solving. There was no additional benefit of the working memory training. The effects faded at the six-month follow-up (effect size = +0.18–0.28) and even more so after 12 months (effect size = +0.03–0.13).

IQ was a significant moderator of direct and long-term effects, such that children with lower IQ benefited more than higher IQ pupils. Socioeconomic factors did not moderate outcomes.

Source: Short and long-term effects of a mathematics tablet intervention for low performing second graders (November 2018), Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 110(8)

Text messaging does not affect children’s grammatical development

Researchers from Coventry University carried out a longitudinal study to investigate whether “text speak” had any detrimental impact on grammatical development and other related literacy and language skills over the course of a year. They assessed the spelling, grammar, understanding of English, and IQ of three groups of children and young people (83 primary school children, 78 secondary school children, and 49 undergraduates), and compared those skills with a sample of their text messages.

There was no evidence of any significant relationships between poor grammar in text messages and their understanding of written or spoken grammar. For the primary school children, there was an association between punctuation errors in text messages and spelling ability. Children who made fewer punctuation errors when texting tended to be better at spelling and quicker to process writing than those who made more errors in their text messages.

For the undergraduate group, there was some evidence of a link between punctuation errors in text messages and the spelling ability and grammatical understanding of participants. However, this link was weak, and researchers concluded that it was probably related to children’s IQ score.

Source: Text messaging and grammatical development (2012), Nuffield Foundation