Evaluating the effectiveness of an educational programming intervention on children’s mathematics skills, spatial awareness and working memory

Messer, David; Thomas, Lucy; Holliman, Andrew and Kucirkova, Natalia (2018). Evaluating the effectiveness of an educational programming intervention on children’s mathematics skills, spatial awareness and working memory. Education and Information Technologies, 23(6) pp. 2879–2888.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-018-9747-x

Abstract

This investigation concerns two questions: i). is simple educational programming with children, compared to working on mathematical tasks, more effective in increasing scores in mathematical abilities, spatial awareness and working memory? ii), is educational programming on a digital device, compared to similar paper and pencil programming activities, more effective in increasing mathematical abilities, spatial awareness and working memory? Forty-one 5-6 year olds from a UK infant school were randomly allocated to one of three groups: programming+iPad technology, programming using paper and pencils, and a comparison condition involving pencil and paper mathematical addition and subtraction tasks. Two 10-minute intervention sessions took place each week, over a period of six weeks, with pre-intervention and post-intervention tests administered to assess children’s mathematical abilities, spatial awareness and working memory. A series of mixed analyses of variance revealed that all three groups increased their mathematical abilities and spatial awareness. However, there were no significant increases in working memory, and there were no significant differences between any of the groups. These findings suggest that even a relatively short period of experience with programming can benefit other abilities and that the effects are similar to more directly targeted interventions. It was not found that programming using iPads resulted in higher scores than programming with paper and pencils.

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