According to a study published this week in the journal Science, one app truly does help elementary school children learn the subject of math.
Researchers from the University of Chicago looked at a demographically diverse group of first-graders and their parents, totaling close to 600, from across Chicago. One group was allowed access to the iPad app “Bedtime Math,” which uses stories and sound effects with math problems children can solve with their parents. Meanwhile, the control group was given a reading app that offered similar stories but no math component.
By the end of the school year, researchers had discovered that the Bedtime Math app did help students perform better in math, which they say could be an important asset to parents who are unsure of their own math skills. Students who used the app on a frequent basis were typically around three months ahead of their peers in math achievement compared to the students who only used the reading app.
In an interview with Eric Westervelt for NPR, University of Chicago professor and one of the paper’s lead authors Sian L. Beilock said:
“We’ve shown that, when parents interact with their kids and talk with them about math, that really impacts what kids learn. We were interested in this because it really is a no-frills app, an easy way for parents to interact with their kids, to talk with their kids about math. It’s not an app that they use by themselves. And we thought that that potentially had promise in terms of what math knowledge kids gained.”
Beilock said the key was for parents to talk to their children about math, which should be looked on as part of the bedtime routine, writes Adrian Cho for Science.
The app, created two years ago by astrophysicist-and-mom Laura Overdeck, is now being promoted through a partnership between Overdeck and the Newark Public School system, the largest public school district in the state of New Jersey.
The district is putting the app to use as part of its efforts to close the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students, in addition to the confusion that students across the state hold concerning the subject of math in general.
Overdeck spoke to NJ Advance Media, saying that this is the first time partnering with a school district. She hopes it will show that math can be fun to do at home.
Six elementary schools in the district are participating in a pilot program using the app and are encouraging parents of children in kindergarten through the second grade to download it. They suggest that parents use the app on a voluntary basis for five minutes at a time with their children before bedtime for a few days a week. Officials plan to survey parents in order to see how the program is working.
According to the district’s Special Assistant of Math PreK-5 supervisor Darlene DeVries, the program will be encouraged within all 40 Newark elementary schools by next fall.