Examining Mobile Learning InThird Grade Math Skills

My article addresses the question, if the use of mobile learning with iPods was more effective in 3rd grade students learning their multiplication facts than the traditional way with charts, memorization, and flash cards.

The researchers set up a field study on mobile learning intervention (MLI) at a Midwestern elementary school between 4 third grade classrooms.  Two classes would use iPods with selected math applications downloaded to them.  And two classes would continue to use the “business as usual” way of teaching and learning multiplication facts.  Each class will spend only 10 minutes a day for a 9 week study session.  Teachers and students alike volunteered for the project, with parents sent an information packet. There were 46 students/2 teachers in the traditional taught classrooms and 41 students/2 teachers in the iPod touch taught classrooms. In the MLI classrooms, each student was given an iPod touch device to work on their math skills. The school has a learning resource teacher (LRT) who gave training to teachers and students in the use of the iPods.  The LRT wheels a wireless mobile cart into the classroom, check out/in iPods, instructs the class on apps, and assists the teacher and students individually.  Students were given free choice at what apps they wanted use but never allowed to use more than 2 per session.  The comparison class sometimes was allowed to choose their desire method of practice, but most of the time the teacher decided which method they would use.

From the LRT’s field notes and teachers alike, in the MLI classrooms the word spoken the most was “engaging”.  Students were engaged in the learning process, it was fun, and they looked forward to working on their math skills. The study proved that MLI students’ way outperformed their counterpart in the comparison classrooms on post multiplication testing.

The NETS-S #1 Creativity & Innovation specifically applies to this article by the students’ using their existing knowledge of math
facts and applying them to the process of learning done on the iPods.  Also #6 Technology Operations & Concepts specifically applies by students showing their understanding of how to use the iPod system and transferring current digital knowledge into the learning of new technology through the math applications.

The NETS-T #1 Facilitate & Inspire Student Leaning & Creativity specifically applies with teachers using their math pedagogy to stress the learning of multiplication facts through technology to advance the students learning process.  Because the learning was fun, the students were able to be creative and learn in a positive manner.  Also #2 Design & Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences & Assessments specifically applies with teachers providing authentic learning experiences by using a digital tool of the iPods for students learning.   The teachers were able to have apps which could be customized to students working at their own level, pace, and ability.

I am not currently teaching, however I believe this would be a very positive way in which to use technology in the classroom and, more importantly, learn the multiplication facts.  Since these facts are one of the bases of mathematics, the long term goals for teaching math could be become more simplified with this one step.  I believe after the multiplication facts had been mastered, continuing use of iPods would be beneficial in the classroom.  As a teacher I would research what other apps are available for math, language arts, reading and literature.  It would seem there are many different uses which are applicable.

The most challenging aspect as I see it is the cost of the iPods and apps.  For this intervention study the total cost to the school district was $10,319.   It included 24 iPods and a wireless hub and laptop computer to store and charge.  80% of the cost was for the iPods. Already having the devices purchased, the cost could be defrayed somewhat by using the devices repeatedly with other learning situation.  The researchers did suggest an interesting thought along those lines and it was a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model.  This could keep the cost down for school districts.  In these stretched economic times, this model would tie into the NETS standards from the standpoint of being a collaborative and productive perspective of sharing the devices.

One other question I have about the study is the use of a LRT.  Many school districts do not have funds for such a teacher, to help with the process of using technology in the classrooms. So it would be up to the individual teacher to learn and understand the use of the devices, how the apps work and do any troubleshoot when needed.  I personally believe the benefits would out way the hassles.  However, I do not know if the majority of teachers would take the same stance.

I would love to have some feedback from current teachers on their thoughts and experiences about using iPods in the classroom.


Kiger, D., Herro, D., & Prunty, D. “Examining the influence of a mobile learning intervention on third grade math achievement.” Journal of Research on Technology in Education 45.1 (2012): 61+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.



About Jan Rue

Hi, I am a graduate student at Western Oregon University working towards a masters in teaching with an endorsement in reading. I am not currently teaching but hope to be able to teach in the elementary level.
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2 Responses to Examining Mobile Learning InThird Grade Math Skills

  1. lukeandelona says:

    Hi Jan,
    That’s a very interesting article! I will be studying IPad use in one of my upcoming article reviews, and am also on my district’s tech committee. I’m teaching 5th grade and this year we got our first mobile laptop lab and it’s popularity has made me very interested in IPads.
    I agree with you that this is a very engaging way to learn multiplication facts. A main component of multiplication facts is automaticity and I would be interested in a timed test of facts between both groups and examine those results. My guess is that they might be around the same acheivement but for different reasons. The traditional model of memorization with ‘drill and kill’ is not the most ideal. I supplement that with games, tricks, rhymes, songs and videos. In the IPad model, my concern would be regarding the memorization and automatic recall of facts. The kids would probably more interested and engaged, and therefore more motivated to learn so their learning might more successful due to that factor.
    I had the same question as you had regarding the LRT. One ‘side effect’ is that there is essentially two teachers in the classroom of the students using IPads- one to do the teaching/coaching and one for logistical tech issues.
    Also, the class size in the study was larger in the classes using the traditional/non tech model. That could also impact achievement.
    Thanks for sharing this article!

  2. jely06 says:

    Hi Jan,

    Great minds think alike I also chose a similar topic this week. I was very fascinated with your article review. It seems that in this type of situation the use of IPads might be useful in presenting the repetitious content in a more interactive and engaging way. It is a positive that students were able to work at their own pace throughout the use of the mobile devices in the classroom. Though as you mentioned the start up cost might be a bit of a draw back. I student taught in a school that had a classroom set of lab-tops that were shared between the 3-5th grade classrooms and students enjoyed working on projects at their own pace at their desks. I found that students that felt more comfortable with the technology programs went out of their way to assist those that were struggling. Just something that I observed in the classroom. I however, have not used IPads and would be interested to hear about their impact in other educators classrooms.

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