Students in Pilot Program Show Improved Math Scores with iPad

Middle school students at the Amelia Earhart Middle School in California’s Riverside Unified School District who participated Houghton Mifflin’s pilot program using HMH Fuse: Algebra I for iPad scored higher on California Standards Tests than their peers who learned algebra via the traditional Holt McDougal Algebra 1 textbook.

At Amelia Earheart, 78 percent of students using HHMH Fuse earned proficient or advanced scores on their standardized tests compared to 59 percent of students who learned algebra from a textbook.

The Amelia Earheart students were part of a larger pilot program involving 400 students in San Francisco, Long Beach, Riverside, and Fresno school districts across California.

In addition to the state testing, the students were evaluated twice by a third-party research firm as part of the pilot study. The study began in September 2010. The first assessment, which was conducted during during the second trimester of the 2010–2011 year, found that students in the iPad group an average of 10 percentage points higher than students without iPad access.

The second assessment, which was conducted after the California Standards Test in spring 2011, found students in the iPad group scored approximately 20 percent higher than their textbook-using peers on the assessment.

Coming on the heels of Apple’s recent textbook initiative, this announcement will certainly grab the attention of educators who are wondering if the iPad belongs in their classrooms.

It stands to reason that kids given bright, shiny new iPads might pay a bit more attention than their counterparts who are stuck using old-school textbooks.  Bethlam Forsa, Executive Vice President, Global Content and Product Development, HMH points out another advantage,  “With HMH Fuse, teachers can assess student progress in real time and tailor instruction as needed.”

Theoretically, if the iPad curriculum leads to more individualized learning it could help more students meet proficiency.

Not surprisingly, the Earhart students loved learning on the iPad. Coleman Kells, Principal of Earhart, commented: “Students’ interaction with the device was more personal. You could tell students were more engaged.”

Notably, as San Francisco area 8th grade Algebra teacher Jeannetta Mitchell told KQED, initially the students in the iPad group at Presidio Middle School showed lower test scores than students in the textbook using group. Mitchell stresses that the iPad is “not a magic wand,” but notes that because she can see which answers her students are choosing in real time by using the HMH app, it helps her to spot disconnects more quickly.

Although these results are impressive, they do raise some questions. Were the results at Amelia Earhart a fluke or will researchers find the same effect in a different population? If the study was conducted at schools across multiple districts, why is Houghton Mifflin only releasing the data from Amelia Earhart? How many students were in the Amelia Earhart group? Was that number, presumably much smaller than the number of students in the entire pilot, still sufficient for a reliable result?

It’s likely we will have to wait for more definitive results until data from the additional pilot studies that HMH is currently conducting in New Jersey, Nevada and Virginia are in.

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite