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UMaine in $3.5 Million Math Tutorial Collaboration

The University of Maine will share part of a $3.5 million federal grant with two research collaborators — Worcester Polytechnic Institute and SRI International — to study the effectiveness of an online mathematics homework tutorial for students and teachers in 50 Maine schools.

UMaine’s Center for Research and Evaluation (CRE) will help coordinate training and workshops for participating teachers, and also will work with Silicon Valley-based SRI, a nonprofit research and development organization, in assessing a free, Web-based math homework tutorial program developed by Worcester Polytechnic called “ASSISTments.”

UMaine will receive $670,000 to assist the Maine schools selected for participation, according to grant co-principal investigator Craig Mason, CRE director and professor of education and applied quantitative methods at UMaine.

The research team is now recruiting schools in Maine to participate in the study. Schools will receive free use of ASSISTments for four years, in addition to professional development for math teachers. For more information, visit:

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences enables researchers to evaluate seventh-grade mathematics students and teachers in more than 50 schools throughout Maine using the ASSISTments system. ASSISTments aims to transform homework by giving students instant feedback and tutoring adapted to their individual needs, according to WPI researchers.

“Our early, small studies have shown solid learning gains for students who use ASSISTments, and this is leading to tremendous interest from schools in adopting the system,” says Neil Heffernan, the associate professor of computer science at WPI who created ASSISTments. The research will establish objective, gold-standard results, he says.

The team chose to conduct the study in Maine because students here are assigned laptops to use for homework. The researchers will look specifically at whether students who previously struggled in mathematics benefit from online homework tutoring and how those benefits vary, depending on students’ socioeconomic status.

“This project provides an excellent opportunity for Maine schools to capitalize on our state’s investment in educational technology, and truly use the power of this resource to enhance student learning,” says Mason.

“The results of this study will determine whether automated homework tutoring could be a cost-effective approach to support learning, while giving mathematics teachers the information they need to adapt classroom instruction to meet their students’ needs,” says Jeremy Roschelle, director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI.

Contact: Craig Mason, (207) 581-9059; George Manlove, (207) 581-3756


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