Raising early achievement in math with interactive apps: A randomized control trial

L.A. Outhwaite, M. Faulder, A. Gulliford, N.J. Pitchford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Improving provision and raising achievement in early math for young children is of national importance. Child-centered apps offer an opportunity to develop strong foundations in learning math as they deliver one-to-one instruction. Reported here is the first pupil-level randomized control trial in the United
Kingdom of interactive math apps designed for early years education, with 389 children aged 4 –5 years. The original and rigorous research design disentangled the impact of the math apps as a form of quality math instruction from additional exposure to math. It was predicted that using the apps would increase
math achievement when implemented by teachers in addition to standard math activities (treatment) or instead of a regular small group-based math activity (time-equivalent treatment) compared with standard math practice only (control). After a 12-week intervention period, results showed significantly greater
math learning gains for both forms of app implementation compared with standard math practice. The math apps supported targeted basic facts and concepts and generalized to higher-level math reasoning and problem solving skills. There were no significant differences between the 2 forms of math app implementation, suggesting the math apps can be implemented in a well-balanced curriculum. Features of the interactive apps, which are grounded in instructional psychology and combine aspects of direct instruction with play, may account for the observed learning gains. These novel results suggest that
structured, content-rich, interactive apps can provide a vehicle for efficiently delivering high-quality math instruction for all pupils in a classroom context and can effectively raise achievement in early math.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-298
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • math achievement
  • improving classroom teaching
  • Interactive learning environments
  • elementary education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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