A qualitative investigation of implementation of app-based maths instruction for young learners

Anthea Gulliford*, Jodie Walton, Kate Allison, N.J. Pitchford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: Tablet technology can play a valuable role in supporting learning for primary school children, but its implementation for children in the early years or for with those with learning delays has received limited focus. The aim of this study was to enhance understanding of the interaction between child, technology, and conditions for implementation; fundamental to optimising the role that technology can play in the education of young learners.

Method: Qualitative data was gathered during two controlled efficacy studies (Walton 2018; Allison 2019). Semi-structured interviews explored the perspectives of teachers and teaching assistants regarding the utility, implementation and perceived outcomes of one maths app for young learners. This interview data was synthesised here.

Findings: Thematic analysis of the synthesised data highlighted child prerequisite skills, features of the app and implementation conditions were perceived to support early learning and engagement. Critical examination yielded a model of app-based early maths learning that considers learning through the complex interaction of four key dimensions: child, app, facilitator, and learning environment.

Limitations: Findings are restricted to the circumstances of these studies, so further studies, in other contexts, are needed to explore transferability of these results.

Conclusions: This synthesis is consonant with emerging theorising for mobile technology in education (Bernacki et al., 2020), highlighting the complex interaction of technology and context in achieving educational gains. It can inform the work of educators and psychologists supporting young or delayed learners, serving as a guide to utilising technology effectively, to optimise provision and thereby the achievement of young learners.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)90-108
Number of pages18
JournalEducational and Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021


  • Early Years
  • maths instruction
  • scaffolding
  • Educational technology
  • tablet/app-based learning;
  • Implementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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