Mathematics Education Research Journal

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 79–105 | Cite as

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

  • Patricia S. Moyer-PackenhamEmail author
  • Emma K. Bullock
  • Jessica F. Shumway
  • Stephen I. Tucker
  • Christina M. Watts
  • Arla Westenskow
  • Katie L. Anderson-Pence
  • Cathy Maahs-Fladung
  • Jennifer Boyer-Thurgood
  • Hilal Gulkilik
  • Kerry Jordan
Original Article


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.


Affordances Virtual manipulative iPad Math apps Manipulatives 



Financial support for the work reported in this paper was provided for a project titled: Captivated! Young Children’s Learning Interactions with iPad Mathematics Apps, funded by the Vice President for Research Office category of Research Catalyst Funding at Utah State University, 2605 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322, USA.


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Copyright information

© Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Inc. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia S. Moyer-Packenham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emma K. Bullock
    • 1
  • Jessica F. Shumway
    • 1
  • Stephen I. Tucker
    • 2
  • Christina M. Watts
    • 1
  • Arla Westenskow
    • 1
  • Katie L. Anderson-Pence
    • 3
  • Cathy Maahs-Fladung
    • 1
  • Jennifer Boyer-Thurgood
    • 1
  • Hilal Gulkilik
    • 4
  • Kerry Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.The Virtual Manipulatives Research GroupUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  3. 3.University of Colorado Colorado SpringsColorado SpringsUSA
  4. 4.Gazi UniversityTeknikokullarTurkey

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