Students who receive math tutoring from an artificial intelligence (AI) program perform no better than students who are taught by a “real” teacher. These students do, however, need less help learning. This is the conclusion of Rashmi Khazanchi from the Open University of the Netherlands together with Hendrik Drachsler and Daniele Di Mitri.

Math Lessons with AI

The researchers examined the effectiveness of the Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS) tutoring program, called Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS). Previous studies have shown that students learn math better using software than traditional teaching methods. Previous studies on ALEKS have also shown that, thanks to this program, students memorize more knowledge, perform better, experience more engagement in mathematics and drop out less. The advantage of an ITS like ALEKS is that it can replace human tutoring and save the teacher a lot of work. The program provides personalized instruction by adapting to students’ needs and offering learning material they are ready for at that time. To do this, ALEKS uses test questions and determines what students need to learn next based on the answers they give. This adapts the complexity of the tasks to a person’s prior knowledge.

Valuable Addition

The results of the study were unexpected: students taught by a physical teacher did slightly better than students taught by ALEKS. Possible explanations for this are that teachers were not yet sufficiently familiar with using ALEKS in the classroom and that lessons were disrupted during the COVID-19 period. Nevertheless, the researchers conclude that ALEKS can be a valuable addition in the math classroom because it allows students to be more independent and also require less help from the teacher.

The Study

The research was based on a quasi-experimental study of the mathematical performance of a group of students under the guidance of ALEKS versus a group of students receiving instruction from a teacher. This study was conducted in Georgia in the United States. 158 8th-grade students participated, with 60 being taught by a teacher and 98 being taught with ALEKS. All participants took a test before and after the study to measure their math performance. The teacher in the control group used only the usual teaching method. The students who used ALEKS did so every other day for 50 minutes for a year, in the presence of a teacher. Then the researchers looked at which group of students had made the most progress.

The article “Measuring Efficacy of ALEKS as a Supportive Instructional Tool in K-12 Math Classroom with Underachieving Students” is published in the Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, It is not freely available.