The Effects of Technology Enriched Mathematics Instruction on At-Risk Secondary School Students.

Fred Leonard Pellerito, Ph.D., The University of Kansas, 2011.


An obstacle to student learning with many at-risk students is not the lack of ability of the student, but rather the inability of the school system to design and implement options suited to their unique learning styles. This study examined the effectiveness of a computer-based instruction (CBI) system to teach Algebra I in an alternative high school serving at-risk students. The study focused on student achievement, attitudes toward mathematics, school climate, attendance and discipline referrals.

Investigators found that CBI can be effective in improving learning with at-risk students. Studies, including those of Tobin & Sprague, Craik, & Kreil, Griffin and Raywid found improvement in academic performance, self-esteem, and reducing behavior problems and dropout rates among students in alternative settings using technology-enhanced instruction.

The study examined 30 at-risk high school students using CBI and 40 students using textbook-based instruction to cover the same Algebra I concepts. The investigator administered an online survey from Tapia's Attitudes Towards Mathematics Inventory, and Gottfredson's survey on school climate. The investigator also collected course grades, state assessment scores, attendance and discipline records over a two-year period following the initial implementation of CBI. This investigation used analysis of variance with pairwise comparisons and post-hoc analysis. Results found a significant increase in grades for at-risk students in the CBI group from a D+ to a C+ between year one (M=4.07) and year two (M=6.53); t(29)=-.321, p<.05. The CBI students also had a significant increase in mathematics scores on state assessments between year one (M=1.63) and year two (M=1.87); t(29)=-2.04, p<.05. CBI students reported more positive attitudes toward mathematics (M=3.62) than did the students in the traditional class (M=3.21); F(1,68)=14.52, p<.001.

CBI programs can be an effective option in improving student achievement and attitude in at-risk settings. The fact that the CBI students placed in an at-risk school for behavioral issues had better attitudes toward mathematics than those in a traditional school is encouraging. Further studies are needed to determine if the benefits of this CBI instructional approach might extend to other at-risk settings and across other content areas.