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Computer use and math achievement (part deux)

One of my posts from almost four months ago has been resurrected by comments from Tina K. and Amir.  In that post, I suggested I’d do some more digging.  So, I dug.

Some background…these are NAEP data with tables and statistics generated by the NAEP Data Explorer.  The NDE is an awesome (free!) tool for analyzing NAEP data.  It’s kinda amazing to me that more folks, including the media, haven’t picked up on this tool to do some really quick and easy data analysis.  Anyway, to satisfy the inquiries of Amir and particularly Tina, I analyzed 8th grade data from the 2007 NAEP administration.  The 8th grade assessment includes the best “type of computer” use data; i.e. we can break down computer use by some specific applications.  That’s what I did.  The math achievement results disaggregated by response category follow:

[NOTE: click on images to enlarge them]

So, quite clearly, the same results appear as with the 4th grade data in my earlier post.  The group of students who never or hardly ever use computers score significantly higher than the other groups, across all applications.  Again, I don’t know anything about those students demographically.  But, still…

Going one step further, I ran a regression analysis with four of the independent variables (i.e. the “types” of uses).  The NDE would only allow me to use four; it’s a statistical/psychometric thing…don’t ask.  So, I took out word processing and drawing as those seemed likely the most remotely associated with math achievement.  The results are as follows (again, click on the image to enlarge):

Make sense? Yeah, I know, unlikely. Unless you are well versed and regularly practiced in regression analysis, there’s no reason that would make any sense to you. So, let me try to summarize some key results:

  • Of all the variance in math achievement, differences in these four types of computer use for math account for 16%. That’s not that high; not terrible, but it’s safe to say that, overall, computer use for math does not explain much of why kids differ on their math scores.

The independent variables are “contrast coded” which is the right way to do this analysis. But, it limits what we can say. That being said,…

  • The average score for a student who never or hardly ever uses computers in any of those ways is 291.
  • Students who use the Internet for math once every few weeks score a bit higher than the previously mentioned student (i.e. never or ever uses in any of the ways).  That is, by simply adding Internet use for math once every few weeks adds a little bit to the average score of the non-computer using student.
  • Same story for using graphing programs for charts.
  • Adding Internet use once every few weeks AND graphing programs once ever few weeks has a cumulative positive effect on the non-computer using student (again, though, VERY small positive effect).
  • The more frequently kids use math programs to drill on math facts, the lower they score.

So, there you have it.  I’ll likely play around a bit more with the NDE to see what else I find with respect to other subjects and other uses of computers.  Fun times!

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