The ability to use numbers and solve mathematical problems is an important life skill for everyday tasks like managing a budget, understanding travel timetables, and following a recipe. Poor numerical ability in childhood is associated with lower employability prospects, lower salary potential in adulthood, and increased criminality in youths. The authors wanted to understand the connection between achievement in math and metacognitive ability because of its impact across an individual’s life span.

Does Metacognition Impact Math Ability?

Metacognition refers to an individual’s self-regulation of their own learning, for example, knowing their strengths, challenge areas, and strategies that work best for them. Metacognition measures are categorized as offline measures (use of questionnaires that aim to capture an individual’s self-reported perception of their own metacognitive ability based on their previous learning experiences) and online measures (metacognitive ability is captured by ongoing behavior and performance as they complete a task such as a think-aloud protocol). Some research has reported poor correspondence between offline and online metacognitive measures, which suggests they may each be measuring different components of metacognition.

Mathematical ability has been proposed to be made up of both numerical ability i.e. basic number representation, simple arithmetic, and operations, and mathematical problem-solving. Several studies have reported an association between metacognition and math achievement in children and adolescents, however, some research has also demonstrated non-significant associations between metacognition and math achievement. This could be due to varying ways metacognition was measured in the research (offline vs. online).

Most Studies Report a Positive Association Between Metacognition and Math Performance

31 studies met the inclusion criteria for the review and 29 for the meta-analysis. Studies were excluded if they did not include primary data, the only measure of math performance was self-reported, or participants had complex neurodevelopmental disorders. Studies were included if the research reported the strength of the association between metacognition and math performance. Nineteen of the 31 papers reported a statistically significant positive association between metacognition and math performance. Eight studies reported positive associations that were not statistically significant.

The Relationship Between Academic Performance and Metacognition Still Needs To Be Understood

The 29 studies in the meta-analysis included effect sizes (74 of them total) that indicated a significantly positive, medium-sized correlation between metacognition and achievement in math. To better understand the relationship between academic performance and metacognition, it is critical to understand the specifics of how each is being measured as there is quite a bit of variability.

Notable Quotes: 

“The results of the current review and meta-analysis have gone someway to highlight that measurements of MC, math tasks, and their combination are important in understanding associations between these variables.”

“Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses have explored associations between MC and academic achievement across different subjects in adult populations, highlighting small but significant associations between offline MC measures and student achievement.” 

“Previous research has found that while MC thinking is evident in young children, its use in learning contexts to efficiently plan and control effort and attention to focus on what needs to be learned increases across childhood.”

Personal Takeaway: 

This article seemed to have more impactful conclusions for researchers than for K-12 educators. It was interesting to know that there are different measures of metacognition, and that there can be a high degree of variability in concluding someone’s metacognitive ability based on the measure.—Matt Browne

Muncer, G., Higham, P. A., Gosling, C. J., Cortese, S., Wood-Downie, H., & Hadwin, J. A. (2022). A meta-analysis investigating the association between metacognition and math performance in adolescence. Educational Psychology Review, 34(1), 301-334.

Gamification, Quality Feedback, Learning Environment

The study seeks to answer two research questions. What learning gains are associated with the use of three SEGs (Serious Educational Games) in secondary biology classrooms? What affordances do qualified science teachers identify related to SEG integration in classrooms?

The Main Roles of Teachers in Creating a Successful Gaming Environment

The researchers explained that this study refers to not just any games but what they term serious educational games. SEGs differ from other games due to the use of learning theories and learning objectives that guide game design and the subsequent use of embedded assessment items to measure learning during gameplay (Loh, Sheng, & Ifenthaler, 2015). 

The researchers claim that “SEGs can provide visualizations that support students’ conceptual development of phenomena by zooming in to the microscopic, invisible nature of molecular movement, then zooming back out to the macroscopic, which is more familiar to the students’ lived experience.” The study thus focuses on science content in high school which has high-level phenomena ready to be visualized in an engaging way. 

The authors noted that teachers play a vital role in creating a successful gaming environment. They mentioned Kangas, Koskinen, and Krokforset al. (2017) who conducted a literature review of educational games in classrooms to explore the roles that teachers play in a gaming environment. They analyzed 15 years of research and identified five key roles for teachers: planning, playing, orienting, assessing, and reflecting. It was acknowledged that these roles are known and are important however the interaction between the two has not been researched.

Significant Learning Gains Are Associated With SEGs

The study was conducted over a period of three years. Three serious educational games were used in the study. The games were “designed as a stand-alone, 45-min learning experiences, during which students roleplay a specific scientist, who has been tasked with solving a problem.”

During Year 1 six biology teachers delivered a two-week lesson to 407 students that did not include a serious educational game. In Year 2 the same six teachers delivered the same two-week lesson to 393 students but replaced some content with the SEG. Year 3 included the SEG and included 478 students. Large amounts of data were collected throughout the 3 years and included, pre-test, post-tests, assessments within the SEG, interviews, and classroom observation and recording of the class lessons.

Significant learning gains were associated with each year the SEGs were included in the lesson. This is based on the pre and post-tests of a total of 1, 278 students. Secondly, the recordings of the lesson showed that the interaction of the teacher had an impact on the students’ outcomes. Those teachers who chose to off-load the instruction to the SEG and were seen working on other teaching tasks had lower learning gains than teachers who provided feedback, scaffolds, and individual discussion. “These data suggest that teachers who provide elaborated feedback to students during gameplay add value to the students’ learning experience.” The third finding showed that students showed improvement within the game assessments from Year 2 to 3. This was attributed to the new dashboard in the SEG that allowed for real-time feedback to students on their answers. Finally, the fourth finding focused on the benefits identified by teachers such as exposing students to visuals of real-life phenomena allowing for more student engagement and needing access to real-time data to monitor student effort on assessments.

SEGs Do Not Improve Student Outcomes Alone, the Teacher Has an Important Role To Play

Throughout the study, the researchers note that SEGs alone do not improve student outcomes.  Teachers have a vital role to play. The role of the teacher is to assist in  “connecting the learning goals of the class to the technology-enhanced learning experience, facilitating strategies to encourage reflection on the experience, and connecting the experience to the lives of students beyond the classroom.”

The researchers surmised that SEGs, when aligned with science outcomes and linked to real-world problems, free up the teacher to focus on individual students’ needs and provide differentiated support. In order for serious educational games to result in improved learning outcomes the games require the participation of the teacher to develop an environment of learning and a dashboard that allows teachers to provide real-time feedback.

Notable Quotes: 

“Serious educational games (SEGs) have emerged as a promising tool that may equip secondary science teachers to implement active learning environments in which players engage with real-world science phenomena, using scientific practices, such as collecting and analyzing data, simulating the work that scientists do (Ching & Hagood, 2019).” 

“Teachers also highlighted the value of the embedded assessments as they explained that this provided students feedback in the moment instead of days or weeks later, after grading.”

“As stakeholders in education move forward in exploring how to integrate novel technologies into instruction, it is important that we learn from the past, as novel technologies, such as SEGs become available to more students and teachers. Thus, we assert that, while valuable, we must explore how teachers actually use tools such as these in classroom settings with students to determine if the technologies enrich learning experiences.”

Personal Takeaway: 

I appreciated that the researchers acknowledged that the value of serious educational games alone does not improve learning outcomes. The role of the teacher is important. When teachers provide real-time feedback students learn better. In light of this realization, the SEG was improved to allow for teachers to see the results of assessments within the game in real-time. Thus teachers were able to provide instruction which led to better results. The study also highlighted that less expert teachers would offload the instruction to the game and attend to other teaching duties while students interacted with the game. This highlights the need for teachers to not rely on tools to get students to learn. I found these findings a good reminder that high-leverage teaching practices are fundamental and critical to helping students learn and cannot be replaced by technology.—Dana R Wells

Hodges, G.W., Oliver, J.S., Jang, Y. et al. Pedagogy, Partnership, and Collaboration: A Longitudinal, Empirical Study of Serious Educational Gameplay in Secondary Biology Classrooms. J Sci Educ Technol 30, 331–346 (2021).

Psychology, Social & Emotional Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the acute and long-term well-being of the general population because of the challenges it presented including social isolation, financial insecurity, and interruption related to daily routines. There has been little research on the longer-term mental health outcomes of lockdowns as research has primarily focused on the immediate consequences of the first lockdown on mental health outcomes. This study wanted to investigate associations between perceived COVID-19 related stress in 2020 and 2021, and coping strategies and mental health among adolescents during the first lockdown. Given that adolescents are already a particularly vulnerable population due to all the significant changes they are already facing.

Active vs Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms To Deal With Increased Stress

Studies exploring the psychological impact of the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on children and adolescents have identified, higher rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) symptoms along with a higher prevalence of perceived psychological stress. During the first lockdown studies suggested maladaptive strategies—such as using alcohol to reduce stress, avoiding activities to manage difficulties, and disengagement coping—were related to poor mental health outcomes, whereas active coping (e.g., trying to view things in a positive light), problem-focused coping, and engagement coping (acceptance, positive thinking) were associated with fewer mental health problems and greater psychological adjustment. The stress experienced by prolonged exposure to social disruptions and their related consequences may build over time and make it increasingly difficult to practice adaptive strategies over the course of the entire pandemic.

Cognitive Restructuring Can Decrease Levels of Stress

The present longitudinal study was conducted among a large national sample of adolescents 12–18 years old from all three language regions (German, French, and Italian speaking) in Switzerland. The baseline survey was conducted from July to October 2020 to assess the impact of mental illness in adolescents during the first COVID-19 lockdown. The follow-up survey was conducted one year later, from July to September 2021, employing the same measures to assess changes in mental health symptoms, perceived stress, and coping strategies over time. 

Overall, participants reported less COVID-19 related stress one year after the lockdown. Perceived stress and pre-existing psychiatric problems were significantly linked to all mental health outcomes at both time points. Parents’ poor relationships with partners during the lockdown were associated with increased anxiety symptoms in their children. Using cognitive restructuring to cope with stress was associated with less, while negative coping was associated with more anxiety, depression, and ADHD symptoms one-year post lockdown. 

Females appear to have been more affected by the pandemic than males, with youths with pre-existing psychiatric problems especially vulnerable to its detrimental effects.

Cognitive Restructuring Used as an Intervention Might Give Adolescents the Necessary Strategies To Better Handle Challenging Circumstances

COVID-19 related stress during the lockdown period in 2020 predicted subsequent symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and ODD in the summer of 2021, suggesting that the stress experienced at the beginning of the pandemic affected adolescent mental health in 2021. This could be due, for example, to social isolation and loneliness during lockdowns or to the accumulation of further stress during the ongoing pandemic. Coping via cognitive restructuring, for example, “looking at the positive side of things” during the lockdown period in 2020 was associated with less severe anxiety symptoms, and in 2021 with less severe depression symptoms. Applying a large-scale intervention to train individuals in this coping behavior might give adolescents the necessary strategies to better handle challenging circumstances and mental health problems that developed during the pandemic. Implementing a cycle of screening and early intervention when necessary might offer lasting protection against continuing pandemic stress.

Notable Quotes: 

“Engaging in negative coping (self-criticism, blaming others) and avoidant coping was associated with more severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.”

“Healthcare and school professionals should support to identify vulnerable groups and adolescents showing resignation and using negative and avoidant coping strategies and train youths to use more active as well as positive coping strategies.”                                                                           

“In 2021, boys continued to use cognitive restructuring, while girls reduced their cognitive

restructuring and were more likely to cope by means of emotional regulation through the expression of feelings.”

Personal Takeaway: 

As we are now in the post COVID-19 pandemic era, schools need to consider how to respond to the challenges and in some cases trauma it presented. Each country was uniquely affected by different measures and controls. It may be worth it for schools to employ a screening tool to find out what students are at risk for mental health challenges, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding a way to teach positive coping strategies as a Tier 1 practice would be beneficial for all students.—Matt Browne

Foster, S., Estévez-Lamorte, N., Walitza, S., Dzemaili, S., & Mohler-Kuo, M. (2023). Perceived stress, coping strategies, and mental health status among adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland: a longitudinal study. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 32(6), 937-949.

Cognitive Science, Executive Functions

Adolescent psychological stress has become a significant concern in Chinese school settings where 77.5% of Chinese adolescents have reported they experience moderate to significant psychological stress with 40% of middle school students reporting high study-induced stress.

This study explores the applicability of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) in reducing psychological stress in Chinese schools and examines how resilience mediates between trait mindfulness and psychological stress. The research aims to shed light on the potential of MBIs to address this issue and contribute to enhancing the well-being of Chinese students.

Can Mindfulness-Based Interventions Help With Adolescent Stress?

The psychological stress of adolescents has become a problem that cannot be ignored on campus, but school authorities still have not provided effective psychological assistance and usually rely on school education with a unified implementation pattern.

Mindfulness cannot only enhance attention to inner self-awareness, but also improve the flexibility of response patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior, thus avoiding the development of set thinking (Chapman et al., 2013).

Mindfulness Positively Associated With Psychological Resilience

A sample population of 189 students was randomly cluster-selected from four of twelve Grade 11 classes in a middle school in China. Two of the four classes were randomly assigned to the experimental group and the other two to the control group. The experimental group received 10 weeks of MBI alongside their regular school timetable and the control group followed their regular school timetable with no MBI interventions.

The results showed that:

  • Compared with the pretest scores of the experimental group, and the pre- and post-test scores of the control group, the post-test scores of trait mindfulness and psychological resilience in the experimental group were significantly increased, while psychological stress was significantly decreased.
  • Trait mindfulness was positively associated with psychological resilience. Trait mindfulness and psychological resilience were negatively associated with psychological stress.
  • The mediating effect of psychological resilience accounted for 43.58% of the overall effect of trait mindfulness on psychological stress.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions Should Be Introduced in Schools

The findings provided encouraging evidence for MBI’s effectiveness in reducing adolescents’ psychological stress and the possible mediating role of psychological resilience. The authors of the report think it MBI is worthy of expanding to Chinese school settings.

Notable Quotes: 

“Mindfulness assists students in coping with the unsatisfying events and psychological stress, because they learned to react autonomously, not automatically. That is, instead of responding instantly, they practiced to feel the emotions of the moment, stay conscious for a moment, anchor their attention to the lower body with breath, and confront the present ideas and images with acceptance and openness, as well as shift their attention away from extreme emotions to the sensations of the body”

“Several meta-analyses have suggested that MBIs in schools had significant effects on mindfulness, executive functioning, attention, depression, negative behaviors, and resilience to stress (Carsley et al., 2018; Dunning et al., 2019; Felver et al., 2016; Zenner et al., 2014). However, the considerable heterogeneity of the studies, high diversity of samples, variety in implementation methods, and wide range of measures have made it difficult to compare studies.”

“Given the further development of [MBI] research in the United States and Europe, it is important to consider that cultural values are very different between countries.”

Personal Takeaway: 

I found this interesting as this aligns very closely with what I teach and what Mindful Sparks does and I would love to be in a position one day to carry out research amongst a diverse range of students. This article touched on some interesting points, for me the two big ones were differences in culture and limited acknowledgment from leadership and I would love to see more research done in these areas in relation to how they impact student well-being.—Lilly

Liu, Xianhua, et al. “Reducing psychological stress of Chinese adolescents by mindfulness-based intervention: The mediating role of resilience.” Child & youth care forum. Vol. 52. No. 2. New York: Springer US, 2023.

Hi Everyone,

Feet are never the prettiest of features at the best of times.  Have you ever met someone with beautiful feet?  Maybe that should be our next MARIO survey?  Apparently Megan Markle has feet with the ‘golden ratio’ – whatever that means.

Recently my daughter entered us for Trek 26.  This is a sponsored event where you walk 13 or 26 miles, and the money you raise goes towards research into Alzheimer’s Disease.  We decided to go for the 26 – we have walked further in the past so a little training should be all we need, right?  In this case, the 26 miles is along the south coast of England – a beautiful route.  It was described on the website as, ‘very tough.’  How tough can it be?  A stroll in the British countryside, with water stops along the way.  Easy!

The reality was oh so very different.  It was brutal!  The elevations were really severe, our backpacks were heavy and the terrain was so rough.  It also happened to be the hottest day of the year (yes I know it’s England, but the ice does melt occasionally).  When I finished, after 10 hours and 5 minutes, my feet were a mess – blisters all joined together like one great balloon on each foot.  Five days later, I still struggled to walk without feeling like I’m treading on nails.  

However, as I walked, and talked with my fellow hikers, we all agreed that the pain we were experiencing was temporary, and in a way, gratifying.  We felt like we were doing something worthwhile, and there was definitely a sense of achievement (and relief) at the end as we stumbled over the line to be presented with a glass of warm prosecco.  The reality for those with Alzheimer’s is very different.  They (and their families) are robbed of so many precious memories, and those last years that should be full of warm connections with family, are cruelly diminished.  There’s nothing temporary about Alzheimer’s.  

Recent breakthroughs in medical science have been really encouraging and hopefully we will soon find a cure for this awful affliction.  My own dear father died with Parkinson’s, and whilst Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are clinically two very different diseases, they both remind us of how precious mental health is.  At the moment, there are ways of reducing the associated risk factors but not preventing either of these diseases.  

When we examine mental health in young people, research tells us that 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24 (Mental Health Foundation).  At MARIO Education, we prioritize the mental wellbeing of young people and ensure every child has a voice.  Schools are doing such important work, nurturing children through these critical years, and we’re humbled to be able to play a part in this process.  There are no quick fixes but the starting point has to be listening to our kids and being aware of their challenges.

We managed to raise over £1,600 and we’re still waiting to hear the total raised by the 600+ hikers.  Fortunately for me, my feet are looking a little better now, although I’m no Megan Markle.

Best wishes,


Inclusion Interventions

As reading inequality continues to be an issue that disproportionally affects minority students, the authors investigated if the active view of reading (AVR) could provide a view of reading that accounts for social justice in ways that the simple view of reading (SVR) cannot.

Deciphering the Main Components of Word Recognition

The SVR has two main components: word recognition (decoding) and language comprehension. The SVR may have limited utility for social justice initiatives. For example, research on the SVR with emerging bilingual students who were learning to read in English resulted in mixed results in which listening comprehension predicted reading comprehension, but decoding did not. Some studies have indicated that knowledge from one’s own cultural experiences predicted reading beyond the effects of decoding and language comprehension or vocabulary. Interventions that addressed cultural or content knowledge positively impacted

reading as well. 

Statistically Significant Results Seen in Emerging Readers

The study examined the active view of reading by computing effect sizes from 333 studies. The meta-analysis reviewed AVR domains, such as self-regulation, word recognition, and bridging processes. The AVR component terms included some of the following; executive function, strategy, phonological awareness,and alphabetic principle, 

Interventions that targeted word recognition and language comprehension had statistically significant effects for striving readers, and interventions that targeted active self-regulation and bridging processes had medium-to-large median effects on reading. There was a large effect for interventions for striving readers that focused on text structure, verbal reasoning, and vocabulary, and moderate effects for fluency, language structure, motivation, and phonics. The components unique to the AVR added significant variance in reading.

More Research Is Needed on the Array of Reading Theories in Their Entirety

This is just the first study to examine the AVR, and additional research is needed, including comparing the AVR to other theories such as DIER (Direct and Indirect Effects Model of Reading) and CVR (Complete View of Reading). 

There is a lack of meta-analyses surrounding reading interventions in marginalized groups. The AVR’s unique domains (bridging processes and active self-regulation) can shed light on some of the structural inequities that contribute to unequal reading outcomes because it is not only confined to the SVR view that includes only word recognition and language comprehension.

Interventions that addressed bridging processes had the strongest effect on reading among striving readers in the present study, but children from lower socioeconomic status families and communities and from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are provided with fewer opportunities to develop these bridging processes. It has been found that low-socioeconomic status (SES) districts when compared to high-SES school districts, provided fewer opportunities for children to engage in self-regulated learning for reading and writing, which potentially contributed to inequities in reading outcomes.

Notable Quotes: 

“The ability to read is one of the single best predictors of adaptive skills in adulthood.”

“These findings suggest that a reading intervention should take bridging processes and active self-regulation (particularly motivation and strategy use) into account, as they have the potential to help close literacy achievement gaps more effectively than just word recognition and language comprehension interventions alone.”

“Most concerning from a social justice perspective was the lack of research regarding cultural and content knowledge/”

Personal Takeaway: 

This article was helpful to me as an educator as it introduced me to the AVR. This article provided a reminder that reading is a critical part of social justice. The 18 specific components of the AVR were particularly useful as they provide areas of intervention that some students may need.—Matt Browne

Burns, M. K., Duke, N. K., & Cartwright, K. B. (2023). Evaluating components of the active view of reading as intervention targets: Implications for social justice. School Psychology, 38(1), 30.