Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jennifer Drake

Committee Members

Bruce Homer

Jennifer Wagner

Aaron Kozbelt

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Early Childhood Education | Instructional Media Design | Science and Mathematics Education


educational apps, drawing and learning, math attitudes, math anxiety, home numeracy


Counting is an important preschool math skill that is necessary for building a strong foundation in mathematics. Previous research has demonstrated that guided counting activities can improve counting ability in preschoolers and that drawing on paper while learning can deepen processing, but research has not included digital drawing as a potential means of deepening processing while children count. This study developed a novel touch-screen app, which used a guided coloring activity to encourage effective counting skills and serve as a home numeracy tool that could be employed by all parents, including those with math anxiety. To evaluate the benefits of individual affordance features, three- and four-year-olds (n = 61) were assigned to one of six training conditions: active areas, simultaneous linking, combined (active areas and simultaneous linking), non-affordance control, non-counting control, or non-coloring control. During training, children were instructed to color specific quantities of dots using a touch-screen tablet. In the active areas condition, children were only able to color within the bounds of one dot at a time (the “active” dot), which started on the left and moved sequentially to the next dot until all dots had been colored. In the simultaneous linking condition, children heard the number name of each dot while they were coloring that dot, but could color anywhere on the screen. The combined affordance condition incorporated the features of the active areas condition and the simultaneous linking condition: children were restricted to coloring only in the active dot, and they heard the number name of that dot while coloring. Control conditions included no added affordances. All children completed a counting pre-test before training and a counting post-test following training.

After one session of training, the activity was not found to be effective in improving counting ability in preschoolers, nor were there differences across the conditions. However, parents did perceive the activity to be educational, and neither parents’ math attitudes nor parents’ math anxiety predicted their perceptions of the activity. This suggests that a similar activity could provide a method for parents, including those with higher levels of math anxiety, to increase the frequency of math activities in their home environments. These findings also indicate that parents need support in determining which activities are truly educational for their children.