Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning and Instruction

First Advisor

Mathew T. Mitchell

Second Advisor

Xornam S. Apedoe

Third Advisor

Christopher N. Thomas


The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of two instructional formats on math accuracy and perceived mental effort during a series of math problems that varied in levels of complexity. The multimedia instruction results were compared against a traditional form of instruction using visual-only teaching materials.

Few studies examine the impact of instructional design on learning outcomes math instruction within nursing with a lack of research describing how math is taught to nursing students other than traditional lecture or textbook. Nursing students demonstrate low performance rates on math problems that involve mixed numbers that also tend to range in complexity levels.

One explanation is cognitive load. Research indicates that tasks of high complexity have negative effects on accuracy and perceived mental effort. Measuring perceived mental effort in addition to accuracy provides a stronger indicator of cognitive load because is performance assessed and the mechanics of the cognitive load processes. Understanding the cognitive load processes acts as a conduit to properly designing instruction specifically with the modality principle.

The modality principle shows positive effects on accuracy and perceived mental effort. The modality principle has a larger and more positive impact on learning outcomes when the learning material is complex because the instructional format reduces cognitive load because of the visual and audio presentations.

Data were analyzed using independent t-tests between the two instructional groups based on three levels of complexity in addition to paired sample t-tests to examine the difference in scores from pre- to post-assessment.

Results indicated that while there was better accuracy with the instruction designed using the modality principle, perceived mental effort was rated higher than the control group that received visual-only instruction. Furthermore, ancillary analysis indicated that confidence was rated lower for the experimental group post instruction.