The use of interactive maths apps to support early mathematical development in UK and Brazilian primary school children

Outhwaite, Laura A. (2019) The use of interactive maths apps to support early mathematical development in UK and Brazilian primary school children. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Developing strong mathematical skills at the start of primary school is vital for children’s later learning and development. Educational maths apps delivered on touch-screen tablet devices are suited to primary education and an emerging evidence base demonstrates their potential to support young children’s early mathematical development. The educational maths apps at the focus of thesis draw on the principles of active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning combined with curriculum-based content and specific learning goals. Using a mixed-methods, pragmatic approach and a multi-level, ecological, determinant framework, this thesis aimed to address how does app-based mathematics instruction work, who does it work for, and under what circumstances does it work?

The UK Proof of Concept study (Chapter 4) showed children aged 4-5 years identified as low-achievers in mathematics (n = 12) who used the apps for 8 weeks made greater learning gains in mathematics compared to their typically attaining peers receiving standard mathematical practice (n = 15). No significant effect of children’s socio-economic status was found but children with a poor memory capacity demonstrated stronger learning gains with the apps.

Similar results were found in the Brazil Proof of Concept study (Chapter 5). After a 10-week intervention period, results showed children aged 5-6 years made greater progress in mathematics with the apps when delivered in their first (Brazilian Portuguese, n = 23) or second language (English, n = 20), compared to standard mathematical practice (n = 19). However, proficiency in the language of instruction was associated with increased learning gains.

To further evaluate the maths apps as a form of quality mathematics instruction, a pupil-level randomised control trial was conducted in the UK with 389 children aged 4-5 years old (Chapter 6). Consistent with previous results, children randomly assigned to use the maths apps for 30 minutes a day, over 12 weeks either as a supplementary teaching aid (n = 126) or instead of one daily mathematics activity (n = 131) made significantly greater learning gains compared to children who received standard mathematical practice (n = 132).

Results from the UK RCT Implementation Evaluation (Chapter 7) indicated that in order to maximise children’s learning with the apps the implementation needs to be well organised, for example, integrating the apps into a consistent routine with well-organised equipment and a dedicated space in the classroom.

Overall, the evidence presented in this thesis suggests the maths apps can provide an individualised and targeted form of mathematics practice that can add value to a well-balanced early years curriculum and contribute to the long-term journey towards ensuring quality education for all.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Pitchford, Nicola J.
Gulliford, Anthea
Keywords: mathematics, primary education
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 55889
Depositing User: Outhwaite, Laura
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2019 12:28
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2019 12:28

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