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Child Development and Learning Difficulties



Can Maths Apps Add Value to Learning?

By Admin, on 26 September 2021

By Dr Laura Outhwaite


Educational maths applications (apps) are an emerging trend in children’s learning environments aiming to raise achievement.

However, determining whether or what kind of maths apps provide a high-quality learning experience is a significant challenge. Current sources of advice rely on anecdotal evidence, while systematic guidelines focus on literacy apps. Teachers, parents, and policymakers need accessible and evidence-based information about what works with educational maths apps, in order to support them to make evidence-informed decisions on which apps to use with their children.

Our research funded by the Nuffield Foundation aims to address this need.

Our current systematic review has identified 50 studies that have evaluated 77 educational maths apps as a formal learning experience in school and at home with children in the first three years of compulsory school, using a broad range of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Emerging themes across the identified studies include: the role of the teacher/parent, children’s engagement with app-based maths instruction, and the importance of considering children’s language skills when using educational apps.

In the next phase of the research project, we are examining the mechanisms underpinning how maths apps might work. To do this, we are conducting a content analysis of mathematical content and design features of the maths apps identified in the systematic review. Initial results examining the links between these features and children’s learning outcomes with the apps suggest that the combination of feedback that both motivates children and explains why an answer is correct or incorrect, together with scaffolded levelling that is personalised and adaptive to the individual child, are necessary app design features for enhancing learning outcomes with educational maths apps.

Overall, this study is highly relevant to current educational policy and practice surrounding the increased use of technology for raising attainment and will provide robust evidence resulting in a better understanding of educational maths apps for young children.

For more information, please contact Dr Laura Outhwaite (l.outhwaite@ucl.ac.uk)


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