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IES Grant

Title: Spatial Temporal Mathematics at Scale: An Innovative and Fully-Developed Paradigm to Boost Math Achievement Among All Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Farkas, George Awardee: University of California, Irvine
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $3,000,000
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A090527

Purpose: In typical instruction, elementary school students experience math concepts and solve mathematics problems through language and symbol minimized representations. The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of Spatial Temporal Math (ST Math™) in improving student achievement in mathematics as measured by standardized tests in grades 2 through 5, and to ascertain if the program has differential effects for subgroups of students. This fully developed instructional software includes a coordinated series of computer games that build on a key cognitive ability, variously called visualization, spatial ability, or spatial temporal reasoning. One possible benefit of this approach is that it may reduce distractions by minimizing language and symbolic representations and maximizing visual representations. Designed both to teach math content and build problem-solving and reasoning skills, it may serve as a powerful complement to the regular math curriculum for students Grades K-5.

Project Activities: The project team will conduct a large-scale randomized control trial in order to test the efficacy of ST Math. Researchers will address whether ST Math differentially enhances math proficiency in grades 2 through 5 along a number of dimensions, including gender, demographics, language-proficiency, and special needs. Additionally, researchers will assess young students’ perceptions of their own mathematical abilities using a 4-5 item individual rating scale that will be administered in a group format in all study classrooms. Researchers will determine overall efficacy of the ST Math program in improving student achievement in mathematics measured by standardized tests in grades 2 through 5.

Products: The research team will produce evidence as to the efficacy of the fully developed Spatial Temporal Math program. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in elementary schools in Orange County, California.

Sample: The participating schools in Orange County, California are identified as being in the bottom 30% of performance statewide on California’s Academic Performance Index. The study will include students from grades 2-5 with diverse demographics, including economically-disadvantaged English language learners (ELL).

Intervention: Spatial Temporal Math was created by the MIND Research Institute in collaboration with researchers at UC Irvine. This coordinated series of computer games provides extensive practice for procedural and computational skills and is a supplement to regular math instruction. Students use the software twice per week in a computer lab during a regular class period. The intervention minimizes the use of language and instead relies on symbols. Progress throughout the curriculum follows graduated instruction, and feedback to responses includes instructive animations. The game-like exercises are intended to increase motivation, and the software implementation allows for the tracking of both students and teachers.

Research Design and Methods: The randomized control trial (RCT) will be carried out in two groups of schools that will begin implementation of the ST Math™ program in two different school years. Cohort 1, already in place, consists of 36 low performing schools in eleven school districts that began implementing ST Math™ at the start of the 2008-2009 school year. Within Cohort 1, schools were randomly assigned to implement ST Math in either grades 2-3 (“A Schools”) or in grades 4-5 (“B Schools”). Cohort 1 schools will receive a second year of ST Math™ in 2009-2010. Cohort 2 will follow the same random assignment procedure as Cohort 1 schools, but will not begin until the 2009-2010 school year, and will also participate for two years. Prior to random assignment, an ELL stratification at the school level will be done. Fidelity of implementation will be measured in a number of ways. Because the intervention is software-based, it will be easy to capture keystroke responses and to determine curriculum completion rates. Additionally, progress will be monitored by teachers, principals, and project staff.

Control Condition: Each school is randomly assigned to one of two groups. In each school, two grades (e.g., Grades 2-3) receive the treatment and two other grades (e.g., Grades 4-5) serve as the control group.

Key Measures: The primary outcome measure of math performance of all students will be the California Standards Tests (CST). Additionally, a subset of students will be administered the Woodcock-Johnson III, which includes tests of cognitive processing, and the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC-IV). Attitudes towards and self-efficacy with mathematics will be measured for both teachers and students, as well as student attributes on demographic, gender, language-proficiency, and special needs basis. Teachers will administer a survey that will take 10-15 minutes in a standard classroom, eliciting smiley-face to sad-face responses on several items addressing mathematics self-efficacy.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use a three-level hierarchical linear model to test the efficacy of the intervention on both level and rates of change over time. The team will examine whether ST Math differentially enhances math proficiency along a number of dimensions, including gender, English Language Learner status, special needs status, and economic background. Some other anticipated analyses include a closer examination of the effect size and the relation of spatial ability, game play, and fidelity of implementation.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Rutherford, T. (2017). Within and Between Person Associations of Calibration and Achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 49 .

Rutherford, T. (2017). The Measurement of Calibration in Real Contexts. Learning and Instruction, 47 : 33–42.

Rutherford, T., Farkas, G., Duncan, G., Burchinal, M., Kibrick, M., Graham, J., Richland, L., Tran, N., Schneider, S., Duran, L., and Martinez, M.E. (2014). A Randomized Trial of an Elementary School Mathematics Software Intervention: Spatial-Temporal Math. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 7 (4): 358–383.

Schenke, K., Rutherford, T., and Farkas, G. (2014). Alignment of Game Design Features and State Mathematics Standards: Do Results Reflect Intentions?. Computers and Education, 76 : 215–224.

Schenke, K., Rutherford, T., Lam, A.C., and Bailey, D.H. (2016). Construct Confounding Among Predictors of Mathematics Achievement. AERA Open, 2 (2): 1–16.

Tran, N.A., Schneider, S., Duran, L., Conley, A., Richland, L., Burchinal, M., Rutherford, T., Kibrick, M., Osborne, K., Coulson, A., Antenore, F., Daniels, A., and Martinez, M.E. (2012). The Effects of Mathematics Instruction Using Spatial Temporal Cognition on Teacher Efficacy and Instructional Practices. Computers in Human Behavior, 28 (2): 340–349.