Do Mobile Apps Really Improve Kids Learning? A Formal Study from Motion Math

iPad is simply another tech device to keep kids plopped on the couch playing games. Or is it? Educational programs throughout the world are beginning to invest money in the purchase of iPad tablets in the hopes that interactive, educational apps will engage children while mixing important learning with what kids simply view as “fun.”

In the past, children learned to form letters and numbers by tracing over a dotted line with a pencil; over and over again. Math was practiced with beans for counting and teachers had to check each student’s work for accuracy before children knew if they had succeeded at solving that pesky equation. Leaving forward thinking, tech-savvy educators and app developers to wonder: is there a better way?

Professor Michelle Riconscente of the University of Southern California, and the folks at GameDesk say yes. In a recent study spearheaded by the duo, researchers set up a formal study to determine whether or not using the Motion Math app on an iPad would improve a student’s comprehension of fractions.

The study took place at two Southern California schools, with 122 fifth grade students participating. Over a ten day period, students in four different math classes were given five consecutive days of regular math instruction, and five days of math instruction that included playing Motion Math for 20 minutes each day. A pre-test before the study determined the students’ existing knowledge of fractions, while a mid-test and post-test evaluated the change in comprehension with standard instruction and the use of Motion Math.

The results, we think, were pretty impressive. In fact, after playing Motion Math for 20 minutes each day, over a 5 day period, students’ fraction test scores improved by an average of 15%. That’s the difference between a C grade, and a B+ to some students! And that’s a big deal to parents.

This formal study offers new light to the discussion about whether or not iPads, and similar tablet devices, and the use of educational apps like Motion Math are a reasonable investment for schools. As a kid, I remember playing math games and Oregon Trail on some of the very first computers that our school had purchased. Perhaps it’s time to consider if tablets, like the iPad, and well-developed apps will soon be what computers were to the previous generation of students: an amazing tool for expanding our capability to learn.

Of course books, teachers, pencils and paper will always be an important part of school. But perhaps there’s no reason that iPads and math, spelling and geography apps can’t  be every bit as educational as counting beans, books and globes.