Instructional design research promotes interactive and adaptive scaffolds as features of educational technology. Mathematics education research can guide elaborated fractions curricula to develop basic fraction concepts while challenging the natural number bias. Thus, we developed theory-grounded interactive material for learning fractions providing scaffolds in an eBook. Evaluating both, curriculum and scaffolds, we split 745 high-achieving and 260 low-achieving 6th graders into three groups: Scaffolded Curriculum group (using the eBook on iPads), Curriculum group (using a paper copy of our developed material), and Traditional group (using conventional textbooks). Generalized linear mixed models revealed diverse positive effects on the achievement of students in the experimental conditions: Results showed that high-achieving students did benefit from the curriculum, regardless of whether it was presented with or without scaffolds, while for lowachieving students using scaffolds was decisive. This suggests that interactive and adaptive scaffolds can support students in learning mathematical concepts, especially for low-achieving students.
Digital media—i.e., features that educational technology can provide—can be beneficial for learning, as recent meta-analyses support (Hillmayr, Ziernwald, Reinhold, Hofer, & Reiss, submitted for publication; Arroyo et al., 2014; Cheung & Slavin, 2013; Ma, Adesope, Nesbit, & Liu, 2014; Steenbergen-Hu & Cooper, 2014). Here, a commonly agreed upon argument within the media debate—initiated by R.E. Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994)—is that it is not the mere medium that does have an effect on learning outcomes, but rather the appropriate way of implementing it into the classroom as well as certain features that technology enhanced learning environments can offer. In detail, adaptivity, feedback, and the use of hands-on activities seem to be promising for the development of suitable interactive material (Alibali & Nathan, 2012; A. Clark, 1999; Mayer, 2014; Moreno, 2004; Moreno, Reisslein, & Delgoda, 2006; Wilson, 2002). All the mentioned possible educational benefits can be realized in interactive and digital learning environments on tablet PCs. But it seems still unclear whether such interactive learning environments developed with regards to wellestablished design principles—that have proven to be beneficial for learning within several short-term experimental studies—can also work within real classroom situations (e.g., Kucirkova, 2014; see also; de Jong, 2010) and whether they are beneficial for teaching mathematical concepts in school contexts. For creating well-designed interactive learning environments we suggest that the development should rely on three pillars that will be introduced here and will be illustrated in detail within the following sections: (1) knowledge about educational aspects regarding the content—here grounded on research from mathematics education; (2) implications from psychological theories regarding the instructional design of multimedia learning environments; and (3) the technological implementation of interactive aspects and adaptive scaffolds integrated in interactive and digital learning environments that have shown to be beneficial for the acquisition of new concepts. Therefore, we introduce a framework for the development of digital learning environments for mathematics education, composed of the three mentioned pillars Content, Instructional Design, and Technological Implementation.