An Efficacy Study of the MathSpring Personalized Learning System That Responds to Student Affect

WestEd, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, is leading an efficacy study of the MathSpring online personalized learning tutor, which supports problem-solving practices in middle school math.

MathSpring is a research-­based, game-like intelligent tutor that provides personalized content for students to solve. It provides tutoring to students via immediate feedback, hints, worked examples, and multimedia support (e.g., videos). It leverages computational models based on performance and behavior data to detect student emotions — such as frustration, anxiety, and boredom — as they arise, and responds to these emotions with carefully designed interventions that provide affective support via a suite of animated “learning companions” on the screen. MathSpring provides detailed student- and class-level analytics data to help students reflect on their progress and to inform teacher adjustments to classroom instruction and pacing.

Researchers at WestEd, in partnership with University of Massachusetts, Amherst, are conducting a four-year study with a sample of 80 6th grade math teachers and their classrooms in Massachusetts. The Personalized Affective Math Learning Study (PALS) is a randomized controlled trial that will compare state test performance of students from classrooms that use MathSpring platform for math problem solving practices with classrooms in a “business-as-usual” condition.

Findings from this independent study will provide more insights about the promise of intelligent technologies to make middle school math practice more effective and for helping to improve student engagement and productive attitudes toward math to ensure the academic success of middle school students.