Pittsburgh Advanced Cognitive Tutor Center



Our research focuses on the development of Cognitive Tutors -- instructional systems that support guided learning-by-doing.

Drawing from the disciplines of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology and human computer interaction, we develop systems that provide individualized assistance to students as they work on challenging real-world problems in complex domains such as computer programming, algebra and geometry. Individualized guidance is made possible using detailed computational models of skills and misconceptions underlying a learning domain.

The Cognitive Tutor Algebra course is the most successful PACT Center product. Originally created in the early 1990s with support from NSF, DoE, Darpa, and foundations in Pittsburgh, this course had reached 75 schools in 1998-99 through PACT Center dissemination. At that point, we formed a spin-off company, Carnegie Learning, that by 2003 had brought the tutors to over 1400 schools across the country.

In the fall of 2004, the U.S. Department of Education "What Works Clearinghouse" analyzed research studies on 44 math programs used in grades 6-9. Cognitive Tutor Algebra was one of only two of these programs that both met the high standards of the Clearinghouse and provided quality evidence that students learn more from these programs than from other programs.

Both teachers and students have been enthusiastic about tutor use as part of the Algebra curriculum. Field studies have shown dramatic student achievement gains relative to control classes: 15-25% better on standardized tests of basic skills, 50-100% on assessments of problem solving and representation use. The course has been designated one of five exemplary curricula for K-12 mathematics educated by the US Department of Education.