Open Access Peer-reviewed Research Article

Teaching mathematics with mobile devices and the Realistic Mathematical Education (RME) approach in kindergarten

Main Article Content

Stamatios Papadakis corresponding author
Michail Kalogiannakis
Nicholas Zaranis


Nowadays, smart mobile devices such as tablets and accompanying applications (apps) are a part of young children's daily lives. In kindergarten education, properly designed digital educational activities can become a potent educational tool for efficient and effective learning. These tools allow children to take advantage of new learning platforms and effectively reach new knowledge through activities related to their immediate interests and real-life scenarios in learning domains, such as mathematics. At the Department of Preschool Education, University of Crete, systematic research was carried out in the last years to investigate whether there are compelling benefits to using tablet-type devices in preschool education to implement teaching reform proposals to implement the Realistic Mathematical Education in kindergarten classrooms. The findings propose mobile devices' integration, running developmentally appropriate apps, in kindergarten classrooms. These apps were based on the three levels of Realistic Mathematics Education (RME), targeting fundamental mathematical concepts for the kindergarten level.

preschool education, realistic mathematics, mobile learning, apps

Article Details

Author Biography

Stamatios Papadakis, Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Education, University of Crete, Crete, Greece

Dr. Stamatios Papadakis has been a postdoctoral researcher in Educational Technology, with emphasis on mobile learning, at the Department of Preschool Education at the University of Crete, Greece, since 2016. He has graduated from the Department of Informatics, Athens University of Economics and Business, Athens, Greece. In 2006 he completed a master’s degree (M.Ed.) in Pre-school Education and Educational Design at the University of Aegean, Rhodes, Greece, at the School of Humanities, Department of Pre-school Education. In 2016, he completed a Ph.D. at the University of Crete, Department of Education in Rethymnon, Greece. He has worked as an adjunct Lecturer in Education teaching Didactics in Programming (2017-2018) at the Department of Computer Sciences, School of Sciences and Engineering at the University of Crete, Greece. Since 2017 he has worked as an adjunct Lecturer in Education teaching Informatics (2017-2018) at the Department of Preschool Education, School of Education, University of Crete, Greece. His scientific and research interests include the study of mobile learning, especially on the use of smart mobile devices and their accompanying mobile applications (apps) in Preschool and Primary Education, focusing on the development of Computational Thinking and students’ understanding of numbers. Furthermore, he currently investigates how a STEM learning approach influences learning achievement through a context-aware mobile learning environment in the preschool classroom and explain the effects on preschoolers' learning outcomes.
Languages: English (fluent), German.
He is an ambassador for Scientix - The Community for Science Education in Europe and EU Code Week. He is an ESERA member, CSTA, EAI, IGIP, and the Union for Science and Technology (ENEPHET).
He has published in scientific peer-reviewed journals and international conferences (including Computers & Education, Education and Information Technologies, Early Childhood Education Journal) and book chapters.

Online identities:
Google Scholar:
Web of Science: S-1483-2016
SSRN: 2803728

Research website:

How to Cite
Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., & Zaranis, N. (2021). Teaching mathematics with mobile devices and the Realistic Mathematical Education (RME) approach in kindergarten. Advances in Mobile Learning Educational Research, 1(1), 5-18.


  1. Alad´e, F., Lauricella, A. R., Beaudoin-Ryan, L., & Wartella, E. (2016). Measuring with Murray: touchscreen technology and preschoolers’ STEM learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 433- 441.
  2. Aubrey, C., & Dahl, S. (2014). The confidence and competence in information and communication technologies of practitioners, parents and young children in the early years foundation stage. Early Years, 34(1), 94-108.
  3. Aunio, P., & Niemivirta, M. (2010). Predicting children’s mathematical performance in grade one by early numeracy. Learning and Individual Differences, 20(5), 427-435.
  4. Aunio, P., Aubrey, C., Godfrey, R., Pan, Y., & Liu, Y. (2008). Children’s early numeracy in Eng-land, Finland and People’s Republic of China. International Journal of Early Years Education, 16(3), 203- 221.
  5. Bebell, D., Dorris, S., & Muir, M. (2012). Emerging Results from the Nation’s First Kindergarten Implementation of iPads. Research summary. Auburn: Auburn School Department.
  6. Berkowitz, T., Schaeffer, M. W., Maloney, E. A., Peterson, L., Gregor, C., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. (2015). Math at home adds up to achievement at school. Science, 350, 196-198.
  7. Bourbour, M. (2020). Using digital technology in early education teaching: learning from teachers’ teaching practice with interactive whiteboard. International Journal of Early Years Education, 1-18.
  8. Bray, A., & Tangney, B. (2016). Enhancing student engagement through the affordances of mobile technology: a 21st century learning perspective on realistic mathematics education. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 28(1), 173-197.
  9. Calder, N. (2015). Apps: Appropriate, applicable, and appealing? In T. Lowrie & R. Jorgensen (Zevenbergen) (Eds.), Digital games and mathematics learning, mathematics education in the digital era 4 (pp. 233-250). Netherlands: Springer.
  10. Chiong, C., & Shuler C. (2010). Learning: Is There an App for That? Investigations of Young Children’s Usage and Learning with Mobile Devices and Apps. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
  11. Chmiliar, L. (2017). Improving learning outcomes: the iPad and preschool children with disabilities. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 660.
  12. Christie, J. F., & Johnson, J. (2009). Play and Digital Media. Computers in the Schools, 26, 284-289.
  13. Clements, D. H. (2000). From exercises and tasks to problems and projects: Unique contributions of computers to innovative mathematics education. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 19, 9-47.
  14. Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2007). Early childhood mathematics learning. In: Lester JFK, ed. Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning. New York, NY: Information Age Publishing; 2007: 461-555.
  15. Couse, J., & Chen, W. (2010). A tablet computer for young children? Exploring its viability for early childhood education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43, 75-98.
  16. De Lange, J. (1996). Using and applying mathematics in education. In: A.-J. Bishop, K. Clements, Ch. Keitel, J. Kilpatrick & C. Laborde (Eds.). International handbook of mathematics education (Part 1) (pp. 49-97). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  17. Dias, P., & Brito, R. (2021). Criteria for selecting apps: Debating the perceptions of young children, parents and industry stakeholders. Computers & Education, 165, 104-134.
  18. Dittert, N., Thestrup, K., & Robinson, S. (2021). The SEEDS pedagogy: Designing a new pedagogy for preschools using a technology-based toolkit. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 27, 100210.
  19. Dorouka, P., Papadakis, St., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2021). Nanotechnology and Mobile Learning: Perspectives and Opportunities in Young Children’s Education, Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, 13(3), 237-252.
  20. Druin, A., & Fast, K. (2002). The Child as Learner, Critic, Inventor, and Technology Design Partner: An Analysis of Three Years of Swedish Student Journals. The International Journal for Technology and Design Education, 12, 189-213.
  21. Egan, M., & Hengst, R. (2012). Software on Demand: An Early Childhood Numeracy Partnership. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12, 328-342.
  22. Freudenthal, H. (1983). Didactical Phenomenology of Mathematical structures. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel.
  23. Furenes, M. I., Kucirkova, N., & Bus, A. G. (2021). A Comparison of Children’s Reading on Paper Versus Screen: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 0034654321998074.
  24. Gadzichowski, K. (2012). Patterning Abilities of First Grade Children: Effects of Dimension and Type. Creative Education, 3, 632-635.
  25. Gelman, R., & Meck, E. (1983). Preschoolers’ counting: Principles before skill. Cognition, 13, 343- 359.
  26. Ginsburg, H. P., & Baroody, A. J. (2003). Test of early mathematics ability - third edition. Austin: Pro-Ed.
  27. Gjelaj, M. (2013). Effects of Preschool Education in Preparing Children for the First Grade in Terms of Linguistic and Mathematical Development. Creative Education, 4, 263-266.
  28. Hertzog, N., & Klein, M. (2005). Beyond gaming: A technology explosion in early childhood classrooms. Gifted Child Today, 28, 24-31.
  29. Hirsh-Pasek, K., Zosh, J. M., Golinkoff, R. M., Gray, J. H., Robb, M. B., & Kaufman, J. (2015). Putting education in ”educational” apps: Lessons from the science of learning. Psychological Sci-ence in the Public Interest, 16(1), 3-34.
  30. Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The Horizon Report 2011 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
  31. Jordan, N. C., Kaplan, D., Ramineni, C., & Locuniak, M. N. (2009). Early math matters: Kinder-garten number competence and later mathematics outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 45, 850-867.
  32. Kalogiannakis, M., & Papadakis, S. (2020). The Use of Developmentally Mobile Applications for Preparing Pre-Service Teachers to Promote STEM Activities in Preschool Classrooms. In S. Papa-dakis, & M. Kalogiannakis (Eds.), Mobile Learning Applications in Early Childhood Education (pp. 82-100). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-7998-1486-3.ch005
  33. Kalogiannakis, M., Ampartzaki, M., Papadakis, St., & Skaraki, E. (2018). Teaching Natural Science Concepts to Young Children with Mobile Devices and Hands-on Activities. A Case Study. International Journal of Teaching and Case Studies, 9(2), 171-183.
  34. Kim, J., Gilbert, J., Yu, Q., & Gale, C. (2021). Measures Matter: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Educational Apps on Preschool to Grade 3 Children’s Literacy and Math Skills. AERA Open, 7, 23328584211004183.
  35. Larkin, K. (2013). Mathematics education: is there an app for that? In V. Steinle, L. Ball, & C. Bar-dini (Eds.), Mathematics education: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Proceedings of the Thir-ty-Sixth Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia. (MERGA-36) (pp. 426- 433). Melbourne: MERGA
  36. Larkin, K., & Calder, N. (2016). Mathematics education and mobile technologies. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 28(1), 1-7.
  37. Lavidas, K., Komis, V., & Gialamas, V. (2012). Spreadsheets as cognitive tools: A study of the im-pact of spreadsheets on problem solving of math story problems. Education and Information Tech-nologies, 18, 113 - 129.
  38. Lee, J., & Pant, M. D. (2017). Analyses of children’s mathematics proficiency from ECLS-K 1998 and 2010 cohorts: why early mathematics? Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 18(1), 99-103.
  39. Lee, Y. (2009). Pre-K Children’s Interaction with Educational Software Programs: An Observation of Capabilities and Levels of Engagement. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 18, 289-309.
  40. Lieberman, D., Bates, C., & So, J. (2009a). Young Children’s LearningWith Digital Media. Com-puters in the Schools, 26, 271-283.
  41. Lieberman, D., Fisk, C. M., & Biely, E. (2009b). Digital Games for Young Children Ages Three to Six: From Research to Design. Computers in the Schools, 26, 299-313.
  42. Lindahl, G., & Folkesson, A. (2012). ICT in preschool: friend or foe? The significance of norms in a changing practice. International Journal of Early Years Education, 20, 422-436.
  43. Liu, C., & Hwang, G. J. (2020). Roles and research trends of touchscreen mobile devices in early childhood education: review of journal publications from 2010 to 2019 based on the technolo-gyenhanced learning model. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-20.
  44. Lovato, S. B., & Waxman, S. R. (2016). Young children learning from touch screens: taking a wider view. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1078.
  45. Manolitsis, G., Georgiou, G. K., & Tziraki, N. (2013). Examining the effects of home literacy and numeracy environment on early reading and math acquisition. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 692-703.
  46. McManis, L., & Gunnewig, S. (2012). Finding the Education in Educational Technology with Early Learners. Young Children, 67, 14-25.
  47. Moomaw, S. (2015). Assessing the difficulty level of math board games for young children. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 29(4), 492-509.
  48. Moore-Russo, D., Diletti, J., Strzelec, J., Reeb, C., Schillace, J., Martin, A., Arabeyyat, T., Prabucki, K., & Scanlon, S. (2015). A study of how angry birds has been used in mathematics education. Dig-ital Experiences in Mathematics Education, 1(2-3), 107-132.
  49. Naismith, L., Lonsdale, P., Vavoula, G. & Sharples, M. (2004). Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning: Report 11. Bristol: Futurelab.
  50. Nikolopoulou, K. (2020). Preschool teachers’ practices of ICT-supported early language and mathematics. Creative Education, 11(10), 2038-2052.
  51. Nikolopoulou, K., & Gialamas, V. (2013). Barriers to the integration of computers in early child-hood settings: Teachers’ perceptions. Education and Information Technologies, 20(2), 285-301.
  52. Olive, J., Makar, K., Hoyos, V., Kor, L. K., Kosheleva, O., & Str¨aßer, R. (2010). Mathematical knowledge and practices resulting from access to digital technologies. In C. Hoyles & J. B. La-grange (Eds.), Mathematics education and technology- rethinking the terrain: the 17th ICMI study (Vol. 13, pp. 133-177). New York:Springer.
  53. Orlando, J., & Attard, C. (2016). Digital natives come of age: the reality of today’s early career teachers using mobile devices to teach mathematics. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 28(1), 107-121.
  54. Papadakis, S. (2020a). Apps to Promote Computational Thinking Concepts and Coding Skills in Children of Preschool and Pre-Primary School Age. In S. Papadakis, & M. Kalogiannakis (Eds.), Mobile Learning Applications in Early Childhood Education (pp. 101-121). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  55. Papadakis, S. (2020b). Tools for evaluating educational apps for young children: a systematic review of the literature. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.
  56. Papadakis, S., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2017). Mobile educational applications for children: what educators and parents need to know. International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation, 11(3), 256-277.
  57. Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., & Zaranis, N. (2016a). Comparing tablets and PCs in teaching mathematics: An attempt to improve mathematics competence in early childhood education. Pre-school and Primary Education, 4(2), 241-253.
  58. Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., & Zaranis, N. (2018). The effectiveness of computer and tablet assisted intervention in early childhood students’ understanding of numbers. An empirical study conducted in Greece. Education and Information Technologies, 23(5), 1849-1871.
  59. Papadakis, S., Zaranis, N., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2019). Parental involvement and attitudes towards young Greek children’s mobile usage. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 22, 100144.
  60. Papadakis, St., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2020). A Research Synthesis of the Educational Value of Self-proclaimed Mobile Educational Applications for Young Age Children. In S. Papadakis, & M. Kalogiannakis (Eds.), Mobile Learning Applications in Early Childhood Education (pp. 1-19). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  61. Papadakis, St., Kalogiannakis, M., & Zaranis, N. (2016b). Improving Mathematics Teaching in Kindergarten with Realistic Mathematical Education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(3), 369- 378.
  62. Plowman, L., Stephen, C., & McPake, J. (2010). Supporting young children’s learning with tech-nology at home and in preschool. Research Papers in Education, 25, 93-113.
  63. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. New York: McGraw Hill.
  64. Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.
  65. Rocha, B., & Nunes, C. (2020). Benefits and damages of the use of touchscreen devices for the de-velopment and behavior of children under 5 years old-a systematic review. Psicologia: Reflex˜ao e Cr´ıtica, 33.
  66. Ryoo, J. H., Molfese, V. J., Heaton, R., Zhou, X., Brown, E. T., Prokasky, A., & Davis, E. (2014). Early mathematics skills from pre-kindergarten to first grade: score changes and ability group dif-ferences in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Shanghai samples. Journal of Advanced Academics, 25(3), 162-188.
  67. Sandvik, M., Smørdal, O., & Østerud, S. (2012). Exploring iPads in Practitioners’ Repertoires for Language Learning and Literacy Practices in Kindergarten. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7, 204-221.
  68. Sharples, M., Taylor, J., & Vavoula, G. (2007). A Theory of Learning for the Mobile Age. In An-drews, R., & Haythornthwaite, C. (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of E-learning Research. (pp. 221-47). London: Sage.
  69. Starkey, P., Klein, A., & Wakeley, A. (2004). Enhancing young children’s mathematical knowledge through a pre-kindergarten mathematics intervention. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 99-120.
  70. Streefland, L. (1991). Fractions in Realistic Mathematics Education. A Paradigm of Developmental Research. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  71. Suresh, K. (2011). An overview of randomization techniques: an unbiased assessment of outcome in clinical research. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, 4(1), 8-11.
  72. Swing, E. L., & Anderson, C. A. (2008). How and what do video games teach? In T. Willoughby & E. Wood (Eds.) Children’s Learning in a Digital World (pp. 64-84). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  73. Sysoev, I., Hershman, A., Fine, S., Traweek, C., & Roy, D. (2017). Speechblocks: a constructionist early literacy app. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 248-257).
  74. Tavernier, M., & Hu, X. (2020). Emerging Mobile Learning Pedagogy Practices: Using tablets and constructive apps in early childhood education. Educational Media International, 57(3), 253-270.
  75. Thorell, B., Lindqvist, S., Bergman, S., Bohlin, G., & Klingberg, T. (2009). Training and transfer effects of executive functions in preschool children. Developmental Science, 12, 106-113.
  76. Tzekaki, M. (2007). Small kids, great mathematical meanings. Athens: Gutenberg. .
  77. Tzekaki, M. (2014). Mathematical activity in early childhood: Is it so simple? In P. Liljedahl, C. Nicol, S. Oesterle, & D. Allan (Eds.), Proceedings of the joint meeting of PME 38 and PME-NA 36 (Vol. 1). Vancouver: PME
  78. Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, M. (Ed.). (2008). Children Learn Mathematics: A Learning-Teaching Trajectory with Intermediate Attainment Targets for Calculation with Whole Numbers in Primary School. Rotterdam/Tapei: Sense Publishers.
  79. Wakefield, J., & Smith, D. (2012). From Socrates to Satellites: iPad Learning in an Undergraduate Course. Creative Education, 3, 643-648.
  80. Yelland, N. (1998). Empowerment and control with technology in the early childhood years. Educational Practice and Theory, 20, 45-55.
  81. Yelland, N. (2005). The future is now: A review of the literature on the use of computers in early childhood education (1994-2004). AACE Journal, 13, 201-232.
  82. Zaranis, N., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2011). The Use of ICT in Preschool Education for Science Teaching with the Van Hiele theory, In M.F. Costa, B.V. Dorr´ıo, S. Divjak, (Eds.) Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Hands-on Science, (pp 21-27), University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, 15-17 September 2011.
  83. Zaranis, N., Kalogiannakis, M., & Papadakis, S. (2013). Using Mobile Devices for Teaching Real-istic Mathematics in Kindergarten Education. Creative Education (Special Issue in Preschool Edu-cation), 4(7A1), 1-10.