Students' attention when using touchscreens and pen tablets in a mathematics classroom

Cheng Huan Chen, Chiung Hui Chiu*, Chia Ping Lin, Ying Chun Chou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Aim/Purpose The present study investigated and compared students' attention in terms of time-on-task and number of distractors between using a touchscreen and a pen tablet in mathematical problem solving activities with virtual manipulatives. Background Although there is an increasing use of these input devices in educational prac-tice, little research has focused on assessing student attention while using touchscreens or pen tablets in a mathematics classroom. Methodology A qualitative exploration was conducted in a public elementary school in New Taipei, Taiwan. Six fifth-grade students participated in the activities. Video re-cordings of the activities and the students' actions were analyzed. Findings The results showed that students in the activity using touchscreens maintained greater attention and, thus, had more time-on-task and fewer distractors than those in the activity using pen tablets. Recommendations for Practitioners School teachers could employ touchscreens in mathematics classrooms to sup-port activities that focus on students' manipulations in relation to the attention paid to the learning content. Recommendation for Researchers The findings enhance our understanding of the input devices used in educa-tional practice and provide a basis for further research. Impact on Society The findings may also shed light on the human-technology interaction process involved in using pen and touch technology conditions. Future Research Activities similar to those reported here should be conducted using more partic-ipants. In addition, it is important to understand how students with different levels of mathematics achievement use the devices in the activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-106
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Attention
  • Human-technology interaction
  • Mathematical problem solving
  • Pen tablet
  • Touchscreen
  • Virtual ma-nipulatives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education


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