Student math scores jump 20% with Apple iPad; transforms classroom education

Global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) today announced the results of a yearlong pilot of HMH Fuse: Algebra I, the world’s first full-curriculum Algebra app developed exclusively for the Apple iPad, involving the Amelia Earhart Middle School in California’s Riverside Unified School District. The pilot showed that over 78 percent of HMH Fuse users scored Proficient or Advanced on the spring 2011 California Standards Tests, compared with only 59 percent of their textbook-using peers.

The first assessment of the pilot— Riverside’s district Algebra benchmark –took place during the second trimester of the 2010–2011 year. Students using HMH Fuse scored an average of 10 percentage points higher than their peers. The app’s impact was even more pronounced after the California Standards Test in spring 2011, on which HMH Fuse students scored approximately 20 percent higher than their textbook-using peers.

“By engineering a comprehensive platform that combines the best learning material with technology that embraces students’ strengths and addresses their weaknesses, we’ve gone far beyond the capabilities of an e-book to turn a one-way math lesson into an engaging, interactive, supportive learning experience,” said Bethlam Forsa, Executive Vice President, Global Content and Product Development, HMH, in the press release. “With HMH Fuse, teachers can assess student progress in real time and tailor instruction as needed.”

Earhart educators agree that HMH Fuse’s combination of content and technology triggered a sea change in their students’ Algebra education. “The app was great! Students were motivated and more in charge of their own learning,” said Dan Sbur, one of the two math teachers involved in the study. “[HMH Fuse] is more of a ‘my generation thing’ as opposed to a textbook.” Coleman Kells, Principal of Earhart, commented: “Students’ interaction with the device was more personal. You could tell students were more engaged. Using the iPad was more normal, more understandable for them.”

Overall, the pilot’s results demonstrated that HMH Fuse is an effective means of improving students’ Algebra achievement within and outside the classroom. The HMH Fuse: Algebra I app empowered students to invest in and maintain accountability for their own learning, while also endowing educators with the necessary tools and opportunities to provide robust, individualized instruction for all students. Additionally, parents took advantage of their unprecedented ability to contribute to their children’s learning experience.

HMH conducted the study as part of its commitment to raise mathematics achievement among U.S. students. While research links Algebra mastery to advanced academic achievement and career success, Algebra performance across the U.S. is declining, leaving students without a competitive edge over their high-achieving international peers. The measured success of HMH Fuse presents a possible solution to this decline, showing that instructional technology—if implemented strategically and in combination with trusted content—can fundamentally improve students’ learning experience.

HMH Fuse: Algebra I is a complete educational program that harnesses the capabilities of the iPad to provide digital instruction using proven methods and cutting-edge technology. While most educational apps fall short of providing rich learning experiences that fully leverage the iPad’s capabilities, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt designed HMH Fuse to fully utilize the iPad’s design and touchscreen functionality. The comprehensive, multimedia experience offered by HMH Fuse is further enhanced by the iPad’s portability, which allows students to review their work and use the multimedia components of Fuse anytime, anywhere, regardless of internet availability.

Math teachers Jackie Davis and Sbur were charged with teaching one of their Algebra I classes via HMH Fuse: Algebra I on iPad, and the others via the traditional textbook version of the same curriculum. The pilot and control classrooms were assigned randomly so that any changes in performance would be attributed directly to HMH Fuse: Algebra I.

“Naturally, there is much more research to be done, but we are thrilled by the results thus far,” said Forsa. “HMH Fuse’s success is a promising sign of the potential for targeted education technology to raise student achievement.”

HMH is currently conducting additional HMH Fuse pilot studies in New Jersey, Nevada and Virginia. To learn more about HMH Fuse for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry, visit All editions of HMH Fuse are available for purchase on the App Store.

For more information on the Riverside study, visit and download a white paper on the results.

Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


  1. Is there any demographics on comparing the experimental group to the control group? If they aren’t similar, especially their pre-iPad math scores, this means nothing.

    1. Oh yeah- I’m sure that the case, because Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are total idiots. While you -the sharpest guy in the world- and can see right through their methodology and data results.
      Dude get a grip, and buy a clue.

  2. An insipidly boring math teacher will be just as bad with an iPad making most of their students largely disinterested.

    That could change though, if an iPad was equipped with some sort of USB powered pleasure probe and every time the student did well they got a … ummm … “warm fuzzy”. Then students would be clamouring to get to math class!

  3. What is indicative of how deep the influence of interactive learning on a touch surface was that some autistic children are now able to use iPads to communicate where before they had no ability to express themselves in an organized way.

    I was emotionally surprised at that result.

  4. I followed the link to the HMH website to learn more about this “great” new iPad learning tool. When I went to watch the video about the iPad learning tool, it came up with a Flash video, which I couldn’t watch on my iPad. Nice move HMH! Perhaps your web designers should have brightened up with an iPad, first.

    1. Mark, if you go to many websites, from a desktop or laptop, the default is to serve you a Flash video. If you go with an iPad, it should serve you a HTML video if it’s available. It depends upon what it recognizes your computer to be. Perhaps, they made a mistake.

      Because when I went to their site with my Mac, it served me a Flash video, but since I don’t have Flash installed, I got an error. By changing the User Agent of Safari to iPad, I got a HTML video. So, perhaps, you should try again.

      1. Use the Safari-extension ClickToFlash on your Mac, that way most Flash adverts are blocked, unless you allow them to go through. If a html5 version is available, the server may even serve you that instead of .flv.
        Unfortunately, this means that Flash die-hard web designers may still collect usage statistics that still count you as a Flash user.

  5. ‘Amelia Earhart Middle School in California’s Riverside Unified School District.’

    The ‘pilot’…

    Nice choice of words… especially since Amelia disappeared on her last flight, never to be heard from again… d’oh.

    Article, meet irony…

    1. Better than disappearing on your second to last flight. When I look for something I lost, I often look in one more place after I have found it so I can say I don’t always find it in the last place I looked. Just twisted that way.

  6. Is it ironic that a story about a math test mixed its mat terminology to present an ambiguous picture?

    They went from “…scored an average of 10 percentage points higher…” to “…scored approximately 20 percent higher…”, 2 totally different things.

    Say we’re talking about 2 100 point tests. On test #1, group A scored 10 and group B scored 20. That’s 10 percentage points higher. If on test #2 group A again scored 10 points and group B scored 20 percent higher, then group B scored 12 points, which would actually be a much WORSE performance than on test #1. If however they scored 20 percentage points higher, that would be a score of 30 which would be 200% better than group A. HUGE difference in meaning.

  7. If I understood this correctly, they scored overall 10% better using the iPad. And on State testing they scored on average 20% better. This makes sense as homework and class participation is part of the “overall”. This is awesome!

    1. Right. But when talking about the first test, they said “10 percentage points better” and for the second test they said “20 percent better”. Apples and oranges. That could be a HUGE difference in meaning, as in my example.

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