Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

The Effectiveness of Computer-Assisted Instruction in Developmental Mathematics

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

The Effectiveness of Computer-Assisted Instruction in Developmental Mathematics

Article excerpt

A significant number of students start college underprepared for a college-level mathematics course (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2003). Without intervention only 10% will graduate, and with appropriate assistance up to 40% of those beginning college in developmental programs can earn a bachelors degree (Brittenham et al., 2003). Success or failure in a mathematics course has a strong influence on students' choice of major and whether they graduate and qualify for meaningful jobs (Hall & Pontoon, 2005; McCabe, 2000). Some fouryear colleges and universities and most community colleges offer courses equivalent to basic arithmetic and high school algebra in an attempt to prepare these students for courses such as college algebra and statistics (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2003).

Typically developmental mathematics courses have been taught via the traditional lecture method used for years in college-level courses (Armington, 2003; Kinney & Kinney, 2003; Maxwell, 1979). University educators across the country are concerned that the pass rate in developmental mathematics courses varies considerably, being as low as 24% at some colleges (Trenholm, 2006; Waycaster, 2001; Wright, Wright, & Lamb, 2002). Consequently, educators are implementing new programs designed to increase the number of students who stay in school, pass a college-level mathematics course, and graduate. Instructors are supplementing the traditional lecture with teaching strategies that emphasize understanding of concepts, active learning, and relevant applications (Armington, 2003; Kinney, 2001; Perez, 1998). It is widely accepted that solely addressing the math skills of these students is not sufficient (Hall & Pontoon, 2005; Higbee & Thomas, 1999; Perez, 1998). Math anxiety, negative attitudes, poor study skills, and lack of responsibility for learning should also be addressed.

Increased availability of computers and students' increased interest in using computers for communication and socialization has led educators to explore ways to use computers as tools to enhance student learning (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2003; Madden & Jones, 2002). Standards developed by the American Mathematical Association of Two- Year Colleges (AMATYC, 1995) and also by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) call for the use of technology to enhance student learning. In the Fall of 2000, 31% of the 3230 colleges surveyed by the National Center for Educational Statistics (2003) reported that computers were frequently used by students as an instructional tool for on-campus remedial mathematics, and 13% offered remedial courses through distance education, an increase from 3% in 1995. Many studies on the effects of computer-assisted instruction on the mathematical learning of students of various ages and ability levels suggest that computer-assisted instruction (CAI) as a supplement to traditional classroom instruction is more effective than traditional instruction alone (Brothen & Wambach, 2000; Butzin, 2000; McSweeney, 2003; Nguyen, 2002; Olusi, 2008). For example, a recent meta-analysis of 52 studies of 5000 subjects in Taiwan from first grade through college in English, physics, chemistry, statistics, mathematics, and business found that computer-assisted instruction had moderately positive effects on students' achievement over traditional instruction (Liao, 2007). The overall grand mean effect size was 0.552, the mean effect size for math was 0.291, and the mean effect size for college was 0.823.

However, existing research indicates mixed results regarding the effectiveness of CAI with mathematics; this may possibly be attributed to the choice of software used in the study, if it was used effectively, and if students were required to use the software. Stillson and Alsup (2003) studied the effectiveness of teaching Basic Algebra using the interactive learning system ALEKS to supplement traditional instruction. …

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