Generative AI

IES, Carnegie Learning Study Exploring the Use of AI to Help Students with Reading Disabilities

Ed tech company Carnegie Learning has partnered with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to research the use of AI to improve learning outcomes for math students with reading disabilities. The goal: to "develop and evaluate reading supports that can be embedded into a variety of digital and/or adaptive math tools to decrease reading challenges and thus increase students' ability to engage effectively with math."

The project is funded by a $2 million, 3.5-year IES grant to the nonprofit Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), which is working with Carnegie Learning to improve the company's MATHia digital middle school math curriculum. In a trial involving more than 116,000 participating middle school students, researchers have used both generative AI (ChatGPT) and humans to revise MATHia math word problems and compare them to determine whether the AI versions are able to help reduce reading challenges by helping students understand the "semantic and conceptual structure of a word problem," according to a news announcement.

"In 2022-2023, the research team demonstrated that humans can successfully revise word problems in ways that lead to improvements in student performance, including students with disabilities," Carnegie Learning said. "The challenge is in trying to train generative AI to reproduce the kinds of revisions humans make. While generative AI has so far been unevenly successful in making revisions that similarly lead to improvements in student outcomes, the researchers are not ruling out the use of generative AI in revising word problems in MATHia."

The project has also partnered with specialists in math and reading and math/reading disabilities, an educator advisory panel, special educators, and graduate students working in a related study with the MATHia curriculum, using metacognition to increase middle school students' confidence in math, the release said.

Currently, as an alternative to math word problem text simplification revisions, the team is now devising a "systematic reading and problem-solving approach" to test "the effect of adding instructional support within MATHia for some word problems," Carnegie Learning said.

"It's an example of how partnerships can strengthen cutting-edge research using AI to improve outcomes for students with disabilities," said Eden Bloss, vice president of communications at Carnegie Learning. "The ED team contacted us to bring attention to this important issue and to highlight why it matters for student learning and society, particularly in the dawn of AI."

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.