A child’s math skills are a strong predictor of later school achievement. They are also necessary to fulfill society’s increasing need for professionals in math-related jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in science and engineering jobs is predicted to experience 11.7% growth by 2026. Given the importance of these skills, early interventions for low-performing students are critical.

In this study, researchers examined the effect of using an easy-to-implement program to improve math skills in eight-year-old students. They recruited a socioeconomically diverse sample of 283 second graders in Sweden who experienced low achievement in math that year. The students were in one of three conditions: 20 minutes of daily math training on a tablet, the same training with an additional 10 minutes of working memory practice, and 20 minutes daily reading practice. The study was conducted over approximately six months with a follow-up at 12 months.

The results showed that the adaptive math training improved student’s scores, but working memory training had no additive effects. Furthermore, the effects faded for most after six months, but students with lower IQs made long-term gains.

While the intervention did not result in long-term improvements, the short-term increases warrant further investigation into the potential of this type of intervention. A tablet-based intervention is a cost-effective and scalable way to provide support. If researchers could find a method of implementation that produces long-term effects, it could be extremely beneficial.

Hassler Hallstedt, M., Klingberg, T., & Ghaderi, A. (2018). Short and long-term effects of a mathematics tablet intervention for low performing second graders. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(8), 1127-1148.

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