Cognitive Tutor: Helpful or Not?

by Micah Rookus | December 7, 2015 8:16 am

Freshman Algebra students this year are asking a recurring question: “Why do we need Cognitive Tutor? Does it actually help, or does it just make our work more confusing?”

Cognitive Tutor is a website that students are required to go on weekly and use to finish math assignments. There are different sections of work that students need to finish every week. When students start the problems, they see a bunch of semicircles at the top of the screen. These are to show students how they are progressing through the section. If students are not understanding the questions, and are getting them wrong, they will be red. If you are doing well and getting the questions right the first try, they will slowly become green. Once all of the semicircles are green, students have finished the section.

Noah Morriss is a Freshman at RB and he uses Cognitive Tutor in his Algebra class.

“I think that cognitive tutor is a helpful math program but it does not work very well. The program is very precise and if you misspell a word or accidentally click the wrong thing it can count against you,” said Morriss.

While the site can be extremely helpful with math, it is very easy to hit the wrong button on the computer, forcing students to work longer.

Jesus Soto is also a Freshman at RB who uses Cognitive Tutor.

I think that Cognitive Tutor is helpful because it makes me do things that I didn’t know how to do. I think that it doesn’t make math harder as long as you are doing your work on Monday or lab day,” said Soto.

Every Monday, algebra students go down to the computer lab to work on their current Cognitive Tutor assignment. If they don’t finish the assignment in two lab days, they are expected to finish it at home.

I have only gotten confused with the instructions on Cognitive Tutor a few times, but for the most part the instructions are very thorough and explain what you’re supposed to do very well,” said Morriss. Cognitive Tutor does a great job of explaining what students have to do, and even when they do get confused and can’t figure it out, the teacher can help them.

I have had trouble with the instructions, but when I do, I just ask the teacher and she helps me out,” said Soto.

Some students argue that they don’t have enough time in class to finish because the sections take too long, but according to Soto, this really isn’t a problem. “I always get 100 percent when I turn it in on time,” said Morriss.

No matter how long it takes students to finish or how many times they get questions wrong, as long as they finish, they get 100 percent for their grade.

Mrs.Young is an Algebra teacher at RB. She uses Cognitive Tutor in her classroom.

Cognitive Tutor is software, provided by the publisher, that accompanies the Carnegie Learning curriculum that was adopted by our school last year,” said Young. “The software provides students with individualized questions that they are able to work on independently, with immediate feedback, hints, and examples that help guide students as they work through the problems.”

Cognitive Tutor is never a group activity. It is always just the student and the “Tutor.”

“Students benefit from being more independently involved in problem solving and being responsible for having to complete a certain number of minutes and or sections as they progress through each unit,” said Young. Whatever students are working on in class will be connected to the material on Cognitive Tutor.

“The school was introduced to Cognitive Tutor two years ago through the publisher of our curriculum.  This is currently our second year of implementation,” said Mrs.Young. So the site is relatively new to RB.

“Cognitive Tutor has helped students by offering first-hand experience with many of the Common Core Standards for Mathematics. Students in a traditional math class are often given a set of rules and asked to solve those questions the same way that the teacher has demonstrated.  In Cognitive Tutor, students are required to read a real world scenario, and then answer the questions that follow without direct instruction by their teacher.  Fortunately, they are provided with a lesson that they can refer back to, or a step-by-step example that they can access.  In addition, they can also refer to hints that are provided.  The idea is that in the real world, there will be many situations that will require them to use the resources provided to be an independent thinker and learner.  Students are given this opportunity so that they can practice these skills.  Although many of the students do not like being asked to do this, I do think that it benefits them,” she says.

Mrs.Young is not the only teacher that uses Cognitive Tutor. “Every Algebra 1 teacher is required to assign and implement Cognitive Tutor in their class,” she said.

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