The proposed project will build and test new functionality onto an existing intelligent tutoring system in mathematics, called ASSISTments. The new functionality will incorporate a feature inspired by research in cognitive science on spacing effects--that students' performance is improved when instruction occurs over a variety of time points, rather than being focused in a single experience. The project will test whether this spacing effect is effective and, if so, will provide the functionality for it to be included in future ASSISTments environments for the benefit of mathematics learners. The target audience is K-12 mathematics students; the sample for this study will be drawn from students using the ASSISTments system in Massachusetts.

The ASSISTments system is a web-based environment for mathematics learning, which quizzes learners as they complete mathematics problems with the help of an intelligent tutor. It uses the finding that learners can improve their understanding and retention of content by being quizzed on the content. This project will add ReLearning and ReTesting phases to the ASSISTments system, allowing students to relearn material to support their retention of the content that they may have forgotten or not learned adequately in previous sessions. These phases will be developed, implemented, and redesigned for a sample of the students who currently use ASSISTments--about 15,000 students. Outcomes for determining effectiveness of the new phases will include students' performance on the ASSISTments tasks as well as the state test, MCAS.

This study will test the hypothesis that a spacing effect would improve students' performance in a mathematics intelligent tutoring environment. The immediate product will be functionality for ReLearning and ReTesting, as well as research findings for the field. If shown to be effective, this project's findings could lead to significant improvement in students' performance within the ASSISTments intelligent tutor system. It would also be informative for other systems that use intelligent tutors to support mathematics and science learners.

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute
United States
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