A review of the research on Cognitive Tutor

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released an intervention report for Cognitive Tutor, a secondary mathematics curriculum that focuses on how students think about and learn maths. The programme can be implemented through a textbook, through adaptive software, or a combination of these activities.

The WWC identified six studies of Cognitive Tutor Algebra I and one study of Cognitive Tutor Geometry that met WWC research standards. The review showed the following:

  • Cognitive Tutor Algebra I has mixed effects on algebra achievement and no discernible effects on general mathematics achievement for secondary students.
  • Cognitive Tutor Geometry has potentially negative effects on geometry achievement for secondary students, with a small extent of evidence.

Source: Cognitive Tutor® (2016), What Works Clearinghouse.

What are the effects of a technology-based algebra curriculum?

This working paper from the RAND Corporation examines the effectiveness of Cognitive Tutor Algebra I (CTAI), a technology-based algebra course designed for pupils at a variety of ability and year levels. The curriculum includes traditional textbook and workbook materials along with automated tutoring software that provides self-paced individualised tuition and attempts to bring pupils to mastery of a topic before they progress further.

Schools participating in the study were matched into similar pairs and randomly assigned to either continue with their current algebra curriculum for two years or to adopt CTAI. The sample included 73 high schools and 74 middle schools in seven US states.

Analysis of post-test outcomes on an algebra proficiency exam found no effects in the first year of implementation, but strong evidence in support of a positive effect in the second year. The estimated effect is statistically significant for high schools but not for middle schools. The authors report that in both cases, the magnitude is sufficient to improve the average pupil’s performance by approximately eight percentile points.

Source: Effectiveness of Cognitive Tutor Algebra I at Scale (2013), RAND Education.