Virtual penguins: evidence not all black and white

Spatial-Temporal (ST) Math is game-based instructional software designed to boost mathematics comprehension and proficiency through visual learning. Students apply maths concepts to help a virtual penguin overcome obstacles.

A WestEd evaluation of ST Math looked at 219 second to fifth grade students (Key Stage 2) in 129 schools that used the game for one year. The students demonstrated a 6.3% gain or better on the California Standards Test (CST) compared to matched students at similar schools that did not use the program.

The evaluation used a matched-comparison (a quasi-experimental design alternative to a randomized-control trial). The authors recognised that the comparison groups may have differed in ways that were not measured, particularly because the intervention groups were in schools that elected to implement the ST Math program.

This report builds on the findings of an earlier WestEd report of ST Math in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In a separate report, a large randomized experiment evaluated ST Math in 52 California elementary schools over a two-year period. In that study, the effect size on state CST scores averaged only +0.06 and was not statistically significant.

Source: Evaluation of the MIND Research Institute’s Spatial-Temporal Math (ST Math) Program in California (2014), WestEd

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