WWC review of this study

Comparison of the Effects of Computer-Based Practice and Conceptual Understanding Interventions on Mathematics Fact Retention and Generalization [Computer-based practice vs. control]

Kanive, Rebecca; Nelson, Peter M.; Burns, Matthew K.; Ysseldyke, James (2014). Journal of Educational Research, v107 n2 p83-89. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1028446

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grades

Reviewed: February 2020

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Whole Numbers Computation outcomes—Substantively important positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Single-skill Curriculum-Based Measures of Mathematics (CBM-M): Multiplication fact fluency

Targeted Math Intervention vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Computer-based intervention (MFF) versus BAU;
56 students




Whole Numbers Word Problems/Problem Solving outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Single-digit multiplication word problem test: Multiplication fact generalization (Kanive, Nelson, Burns, and Ysseldyke 2014)

Targeted Math Intervention vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Computer-based intervention (MFF) versus BAU;
56 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 33% English language learners

  • Female: 53%
    Male: 47%
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  • Race
    Native American
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    


The study was conducted on students with mathematics difficulties in grade four through five from one school in Minnesota. The school’s total enrollment in grades kindergarten through five was 762 students, of which 69 percent were white and 34 percent were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (p. 84).

Study sample

The study sample included students in grades four through five with mathematics difficulties from one elementary school (grades kindergarten through five). The study sample was 45.6 percent white (41 students), 27.8 percent Black (25 students), 5 percent Asian, and 35 percent Hispanic. About half of the study sample was female (53.3 percent, 48 students), and one third were English learners (33.3 percent, 30 students). More than a quarter of the study sample were students with an individualized education plan (IEP; 26.7 percent, 24 students) (p. 84).

Intervention Group

The intervention was a computer-based software program, MFF (Renaissance Learning 2003), designed to improve students’ computation fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division through supplemental mathematics facts practice outside of regular mathematics instruction time (pp. 85-86). The MFF software program comprises 62 hierarchical levels, but for the purposes of the study, intervention group students were randomly assigned to level 29 (6s and 7s mathematics facts) or level 30 (8s and 9s mathematics facts) (p. 85). The intervention consisted of one 15-minute session including: (1) baseline tests, (2) assessment-based individualized pacing, and (3) practice sessions. The MFF software program also includes level review tests that cover the previous three levels completed, but study participants focused on only one level (level 29 or level 30) for the duration of the study (p. 85). The level began with a 40-item baseline test in which the screen displays problems one at a time and students use arrow keys or the computer mouse to select the correct answer for each problem from three choices at the bottom of the screen. The program provides students immediate feedback about whether each selected answer was correct and, if incorrect, shows the correct answer. At the end of the test, the program displays the time taken to complete the test, the number of correct answers, and the specific problems answered incorrectly. If students do not correctly answer all items on the baseline test within a 2-minute time limit, the program provides practice sessions. Each practice session includes at least 20 problems that include previously mastered items and unknown items. Students receive a 40-item timed test at the end of the practice session and, if unable to answer all items correctly within 2 minutes, the program routes them to another practice session. Two school psychology graduate students in their first or second year of graduate training delivered the intervention to a group of 15 students in a computer lab (p. 85).

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison condition received “business as usual” mathematics instruction from their first grade teachers; therefore, they received 15 minutes less mathematics instruction than the intervention group (pp. 85-86).

Support for implementation

Approximately 20 percent of the intervention sessions were observed by school psychology graduate students using an implementation fidelity checklist. The checklist comprised essential implementation steps such as “Are the students sitting at their individual computers for the majority of their computer lab time?” and “Are students moving through the problem sets depicted on the computer screen?” (p. 86). The interventionists achieved implementation fidelity of 100 percent, as rated on the checklists, across the observed sessions (p. 86).


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