Evaluating the effectiveness of an educational programming intervention on children's mathematics skills, spatial awareness and working memory

David J. Messer, Lucy Thomas, Andrew Holliman, Natalia Kucirkova

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This investigation concerns two questions: i). is simple educational programming with children, compared to working on mathematical tasks, more effective in increasing scores in mathematical abilities, spatial awareness and working memory? ii), is educational programming on a digital device, compared to similar paper and pencil programming activities, more effective in increasing mathematical abilities, spatial awareness and working memory? Forty-one 5 to 6 year olds from a UK infant school were randomly allocated to one of three groups: programming+iPad technology, programming using paper and pencils, and a comparison condition involving pencil and paper mathematical addition and subtraction tasks. Two 10-min intervention sessions took place each week, over a period of six weeks, with pre-intervention and post-intervention tests administered to assess children’s mathematical abilities, spatial awareness and working memory. A series of mixed analyses of variance revealed that all three groups increased their mathematical abilities and spatial awareness. However, there were no significant increases in working memory, and there were no significant differences between any of the groups. These findings suggest that even a relatively short period of experience with programming can benefit other abilities and that the effects are similar to more directly targeted interventions. It was not found that programming using iPads resulted in higher scores than programming with paper and pencils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2879–2888
Number of pages10
JournalEducation and Information Technologies
Issue number6
Early online date2 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Programming intervention
  • Children education
  • Working memory
  • Spatial awareness
  • Mathematical ability
  • Bee-bot

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