Cognitive Tutor is the central component in Carnegie Learning’s comprehensive math curriculum, which includes textbooks as well as the adaptive Cognitive Tutor software. The software includes pre-tests that tie to a recommended curriculum sequence (as well as to its pacing, if the pre-test is set up as a diagnostic) and continuously adapts to the student’s performance as they work through each problem’s solution. Cognitive Tutor uses an artificial intelligence model to identify weaknesses in student understanding, directs them to problems that address those concepts in detail using real-world scenarios with a range of visual representations, presents problems with greater or lesser degrees of difficulty based on students’ performance along the way (though the actual lesson is not adaptive nor interactive), and offers contextual clues when needed. (The downside here that some have noted is that the program can be text-heavy, which is a problem for younger students and those that struggle not only with math but also with reading.)
The software--which can be purchased as a single copy on CD or deployed on the Web to an entire school or district--can also be customized to sequence content differently for individual students or groups, and provides teachers with detailed progress reports.
The technology and research-based pedagogy underpinning Cognitive Tutor was originally developed by cognitive scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, then commercialized by startup Carnegie Learning (which was itself acquired by The Apollo Group in 2011). Although the product has been around for a long time and with a fair amount of efficacy research behind it (including several references in the federal What Works Clearinghouse for its Algebra I), there is still some debate over how statistically significant its results are for students, as compared with textbooks. The federal database found few of the many independent studies of Cognitive Tutor to be of high quality, and the effects found by those studies to be minimal, though the company claims that a significant amount of positive student impact was glossed over in that analysis.
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