Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Monitored Design of an Effective Learning
Environment for Algebraic Problem Solving

Kenneth R. Koedinger, Erika L.F. Sueker

June 2014

This report was originally written in 1997.


Keywords: Cognitive Tutor, educational technology, learning outcome evaluation, design experiments

We describe a formative design experiment in which we adapt and evaluate the Practical Algebra Tutor, "PAT," for integrated use in developmental algebra classrooms at the college level. PAT is a software learning environment that presents students with real-world problem situations, modern mathematical representational tools to analyze these situations, and constant background support from a "cognitive tutor"– an intelligent computer tutor based on the ACT theory of cognition (Anderson, 1993). In two colleges, students who used PAT solved a performance-based assessment better than those who did not. This assessment required the use of mathematical representations to analyze a real-world problem situation and captured the reform objectives of the PAT approach, which are consistent with new national standards for mathematics. Changes over three semesters that increasingly integrated the technology into the classroom curriculum doubled student performance; students in control classes at one university had average scores of 30% after the first semester while students in experimental classes were averaging 67% by the third semester. Use of PAT provided impetus for universities to reform their courses and these reforms appeared to contribute to the observed increases in student learning across semesters.

28 pages

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