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Kassy Howell-Johnson
Tougaloo College Institute for Mathematics (TCIM)

Empirical Research Article
The Impact of Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) on Seventh-Grade Students’ Mathematical Achievement

Bahr, C. M. & Rieth, H. J. (1989). The effects of instructional computer games and drill and practice software on learning disabled students’ mathematics achievement. Computers in the Schools, 6(3/4), 87-101.

Introductory/Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study
The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a measurable difference in achievement on the mathematics section of the TerraNova Full Battery standardized test by a sample of seventh-grade students whose teachers taught them to use mathematics websites and presentation software as tools to practice basic mathematics skills compared to students whose teachers did not teach the use of those tools.

The author made the following hypothesis: There will be no difference in achievement on the mathematics section of the TerraNova Full Battery standardized test between students taught to use websites and presentation software as tools to practice basic mathematics skills and students who did not receive such instruction.

Methods/Setting/Populations/Participants/Research Subjects
A pretest/posttest quasi-experimental design was used in this study. A sample of seventh grade students and teachers from a population of four middle school classrooms from a school in central New Jersey were the participants in this study. The treatment group, indicated by (X), consisted of n=126 students. The control group, indicated by (O), consisted of n= 141 students. The sample included all students who met the following criteria: received a valid score on the mathematics section of the TerraNova test in the sixth and seventh grades, were enrolled in the school for the entire sixth and seventh grade years, and were enrolled in the regular education program during the sixth and seventh grade years. There were students from the following ethnic groups in the study:

Ethnic/racial group O (control) X (treatment)
Caucasian 74 (58.7% ) 74 (52.4%)
Black/African American 30 (23.8%) 48 (34.0%)
Hispanic/Latino 19 (15.0%) 15 (10.6%)
Asian/Pacific 3 (2.3%) 4 (2.8%)
Total 126 (99.8%) 141 (99.8%)

Characteristic O (control)
(n=141) X (treatment)
Free/reduced lunch 44 (31.2% 35 (27.7%)
Basic skills/math 42 (29.8%) 22 (17.4%)
Basic skills/reading 46 (32.6%) 18 (14.3%)

Teachers were randomly assigned to X and O groups prior to the start of the study. The teachers in the X group used mathematics drill and practice websites and slide presentation software with students. The CAI used by these teachers was to provide practice with basic math skills. After the students became familiar with the CAI, they used the slide presentation software to explain one aspect of mathematics they learned using CAI. The teachers in the control group used neither the websites not the presentation software. The students used the technology two times per week for 20 weeks. The mathematics websites focused on drill and practice of computation in operations, fractions, geometry, data analysis, and algebra based on the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and the school’s seventh grade mathematics curriculum. The district mathematics supervisor was the site facilitator who observed instruction to monitor fidelity of implementation.

The CTB/McGraw Hill TerraNova is a norm-referenced, standardized achievement test for K-12 schools and was used in this study. The seventh grade TerraNova mathematics portion contains content including number sense, number relationships, computation, operation concepts, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, data analysis, statistics, probability, patterns, functions, algebra, problems solving, and communication. The students’ Normal Curve Equivalence (NCE) scores from the full mathematics battery TerraNova, Form 16 were used.

A two way ANCOVA was used to analyze the two group data. Each students’ free/reduced lunch status was used as a measure of SES. There was no statistically significant interaction between the SES level and the treatment.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Based on the data, the treatment of CAI with an active learning component had a slightly positive effective on the X group students’ learning of basic mathematics skills. The learning of basic computational skills can be enhanced through the use of web-based drill and practice exercises when students become involved in a presentation process and actively explain what they learned.

Future research needs to be conducted to examine the effect of different aspects of computer and web-based learning experiences. The treatment experiences may have not been consistent across all classes or the control groups were not entirely separate from the treatment group. Therefore, there is a need for replication to ensure valid results.

My Reaction to the Study

My hypothesis was correct in stating that computer assisted instruction (CAI) on seventh grade students’ mathematics achievement would increase students’ learning of basic mathematics skills. Because mathematics achievement was higher when students used CAI, I believe that the effects would be comparable and/or better if used by students with mathematics disabilities or may be at risk for mathematics disabilities. Critics state that CAI causes students to be “isolated.” However, discussion boards, blogs, and/or chat rooms could foster collaboration among students.

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