The role of affordances in children’s learning performance and efficiency when using virtual manipulative mathematics touch-screen apps

Patricia S. Moyer-Packenham, Emma K. Bullock, Jessica F. Shumway, Stephen Tucker, Christina Watts, Arla Westenskow, Katie Anderson-Pence, Cathy Maahs-Fladung, Jennifer Boyer-Thurgood, Hilal Gulkilik, Kerry Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


This paper focuses on understanding the role that affordances played in children’s learning performance and efficiency during clinical interviews of their interactions with mathematics apps on touch-screen devices. One hundred children, ages 3 to 8, each used six different virtual manipulative mathematics apps during 30–40-min interviews. The study used a convergent mixed methods design, in which quantitative and qualitative data were collected concurrently to answer the research questions (Creswell and Plano Clark 2011). Videos were used to capture each child’s interactions with the virtual manipulative mathematics apps, document learning performance and efficiency, and record children’s interactions with the affordances within the apps. Quantitized video data answered the research question on differences in children’s learning performance and efficiency between pre- and post-assessments. A Wilcoxon matched pairs signed-rank test was used to explore these data. Qualitative video data was used to identify affordance access by children when using each app, identifying 95 potential helping and hindering affordances among the 18 apps. The results showed that there were changes in children’s learning performance and efficiency when children accessed a helping or a hindering affordance. Helping affordances were more likely to be accessed by children who progressed between the pre- and post-assessments, and the same affordances had helping and hindering effects for different children. These results have important implications for the design of virtual manipulative mathematics learning apps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-105
Number of pages27
JournalMathematics Education Research Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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