Preterm children's long-term academic performance after adaptive computerized training: an efficacy and process analysis of a randomized controlled trial

Pediatr Res. 2021 May;89(6):1492-1499. doi: 10.1038/s41390-020-01114-w. Epub 2020 Sep 12.


Background: Adaptive computerized interventions may help improve preterm children's academic success, but randomized trials are rare. We tested whether a math training (XtraMath®) versus an active control condition (Cogmed®; working memory) improved school performance. Training feasibility was also evaluated.

Methods: Preterm born first graders, N = 65 (28-35 + 6 weeks gestation) were recruited into a prospective randomized controlled multicenter trial and received one of two computerized trainings at home for 5 weeks. Teachers rated academic performance in math, reading/writing, and attention compared to classmates before (baseline), directly after (post), and 12 months after the intervention (follow-up). Total academic performance growth was calculated as change from baseline (hierarchically ordered-post test first, follow-up second).

Results: Bootstrapped linear regressions showed that academic growth to post test was significantly higher in the math intervention group (B = 0.25 [95% confidence interval: 0.04-0.50], p = 0.039), but this difference was not sustained at the 12-month follow-up (B = 0.00 [-0.31 to 0.34], p = 0.996). Parents in the XtraMath group reported higher acceptance compared with the Cogmed group (mean difference: -0.49, [-0.90 to -0.08], p = 0.037).

Conclusions: Our findings do not show a sustained difference in efficacy between both trainings. Studies of math intervention effectiveness for preterm school-aged children are warranted.

Impact: Adaptive computerized math training may help improve preterm children's short-term school performance. Computerized math training provides a novel avenue towards intervention after preterm birth. Well-powered randomized controlled studies of math intervention effectiveness for preterm school-aged children are warranted.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Mathematics / education
  • Prospective Studies