New ways of learning Mathematics: Study

Washington D.C. [USA]: A team of scientists has identified a method to help school children in learning maths more efficiently. The programme designed will help the children to surpass their intuitions while solving a problem and rely more on using arithmetic principles.

More than half of the students, who took part in the intervention programme — ACE-ArithmEcole — could solve several difficult problems as compared to the rest pupils who followed the standard course of study.

The study was conducted by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, in collaboration with four research teams from France, had shown that our everyday knowledge can influence our ability to solve problems but at times leading us into making an error.

From a young age, school kids are exposed to numerous mathematical problems that involve addition and subtraction, and they use mental images that have been fed to the brain in the earlier stages of life to solve the problems.

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But as soon as the problem gets complex, recourse to the problems as in their mental storage makes it impossible or lead the students to make mistakes.

The semantic re-encoding introduced to detach the students from their initial representations in solving a solution spurs children to achieve knowledge in arithmetic at an early age. The teachers in the primary school put into practice the arithmetic course that substituted the standard arithmetic curriculum.

“To get the students to practice semantic re-encoding, we provided them with different tools such as line diagrams and box diagrams,” says Emmanuel Sander, professor at the Department of Education of the FPSE at UNIGE. The idea is that when they read a problem, such as “Luke has 22 marbles, he loses 18. How many marbles does he have left?”

The pupils should detach themselves from the idea that subtraction always consists in a search for what remains after a loss, and should instead manage to see it as the calculation of a difference, or a distance that has to be measured. It’s all about showing students how to re-encode this situation.”

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After some observation, it was learned that 63.4 per cent gave correct answers to the problems that were easy to simulate mentally, and 50.5 per cent found the answers to the more complex problems.

“In contrast, only 42.2 per cent of the pupils in the standard curriculum succeeded in solving simple problems, and only 29.8 per cent gave the right answer to the complex problems,” exclaims Katarina Gvozdic.

“Yet their level measured on other aspects of maths was exactly the same,” adds Emmanuel Sander.

The results were promising as they provide a base for promoting abstraction and breaking away from mental simulations.

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