KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Math apps can boost learning, but not for the reasons you might think. A new study out of the University of Chicago shows that some math apps can significantly boost a child’s learning.

The study conducted by Dr. Ariel Kalil included just over 750 children ages 3 to 5. She said it’s not the app alone that improves a child’s knowledge of math concepts, but rather the time children and parents spend together while using the apps.

Digital tools can facilitate parent-child interactions that make learning fun and efficient and that seems to make a difference.

“So, it turns out the apps were also fun for the parents, and we think that it hopefully changed how the parents felt. That it made them less anxious, more eager. That it was a more fun experience. That it changed the parents’ role from teacher which might produce anxiety to more like coach and partner in this process,” said Kalil, the Daniel Levin Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

This is an important insight given that math scores across the country have plummeted since the pandemic and educators are searching for solutions. Kalil said families need to spend a sufficient amount of time using the apps at home or they won’t have an impact.

“I can’t say that apps are a silver bullet, that they are going to close these really worrisome gaps that we are seeing in a post-Covid environment, but I think if we can’t help support learning in the home environment, we are never going to close the gaps that we now observe,” said Dr. Kalil.

She believes the best apps provide guidance and feedback.