Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Florence Sullivan

Second Advisor

Beverly Woolf

Third Advisor

Claire Hamilton

Subject Categories

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics | Educational Technology


According to the most recent data from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) there were approximately 5 million English Language Learners (ELLs) in the U.S. public schools in the Fall of 2016, representing about 10% of the student population (2019). Spanish is the primary language for most ELL students, by a large margin. As a group, ELLs have faced a deeply rooted and persistent math achievement gap (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). Despite research indicating that intelligent tutors and animated pedagogical agents enhance learning, many tutors are not designed with ELLs in mind. As a result, Hispanic ELL students may experience difficulty accessing the relevant content when using a tutor. This mixed-method research investigates how a tutor can reach Hispanic ELL students, based on the social and cultural Identity framework of the Figured Worlds Theory by Holland et al., (1998). Students will socially and culturally engage with their animated pedagogical agents constructing figured worlds of learning and connection that have the power to shape the students’ senses of themselves as learners of math. This study investigates how Hispanic ELL students perceive the utility of and relate to a learning companion (LC) design. Data was examined from 76 middle school students interacting with a math tutor, MathSpring. The findings indicate that ELL students find the MathSpring LC more useful and helpful than do non-ELL students and the ELL students designed LCs that looked more like themselves than did the non-ELL students. The findings also indicate that students formed ‘She/Me Connection’ and ‘She is Like Me’ figured worlds.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License