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Tech boosts maths results: UC research

Marcus Butler

22 June 2017: Primary school-aged children could develop better maths skills in just three weeks if technology-enabled teaching methods were employed more in classrooms, according to new research by the University of Canberra and Samsung.

A joint study involving researchers from the University’s STEM Education Research Centre (SERC) found that using digital apps over a three-week period produced the same results as a year of using traditional methods.

The findings were released today by Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham and University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deep Saini.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a key education priority of the Federal Government and featured prominently in its recent National Science Statement.

SERC Director and Centenary Research Professor Tom Lowrie said mathematic performance at school is the best indicator of success in later life.

“High levels of competence are required for the most technically advanced jobs of the future, a broad foundation in maths is essential for everyone’s overall wellbeing,” Professor Lowrie said.

“There’s no doubt that attaining success in school mathematics will positively influence success in the workplace and life more broadly.”

The ongoing research is based on two separate projects – one aimed at primary school children and the other at high schoolers.

The primary school project incorporated digital apps into the teaching and learning program.

Professor Lowrie said after three weeks the results pointed to an effect size of 0.5 which is an equivalent improvement normally achieved over a year.

“The group of students we worked with increased their spatial reasoning score by 12 per cent while also recording a 20 per cent improvement in the mathematics test,” he said.

“Spatial reasoning is our ability to locate, orientate, and visualise objects, decode information graphics, and use and draw diagrams.

“The secondary school component focused on student-led STEM enquiry projects using Samsung technology for data logging, analysis and as a storytelling/reporting tool.

“We recorded an increase in design-process thinking and inquiry-based learning among the students, demonstrating good technology enables significant, real-world STEM investigations.”

Samsung Electronics Australia is a partner in the research and the company’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Tess Ariotti, said concern for Australia’s education standards continues to evolve.

“We’ve joined forces with the University of Canberra to start a conversation with the government and community around implementing tangible change across the national curriculum,” Ms Ariotti said.

“STEM practices are increasingly vital to the workforce. Building competence in STEM practices today will lead to future success for young Australians and a boost to our economy.”

The full research findings and analysis will be released in an academic report in 2018.