Cultivating mathematical skills: from drill-and-practice to deliberate practice
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Contemporary theories of expertise development highlight the crucial role of deliberate practice in the development of high level performance. Deliberate practice is practice that intentionally aims at improving one’s skills and competencies. It is not a mechanical or repetitive process of making performance more fluid. Instead, it involves a great deal of thinking, problem solving, and reflection for analyzing, conceptualizing, and cultivating developing performance. This includes directing and guiding future training efforts that are then fine-tuned to dynamically evolving levels of performance. Expertise studies, particularly in music and sport, have described early forms of deliberate practice among children. These findings are made use of in our analysis of the various forms of practice in school mathematics. It is widely accepted that mathematics learning requires practice that results in effortless conducting of lower level processes (such as quick and accurate whole number arithmetic with small numbers), which relieve cognitive capacity for more complex tasks. However, the typical training of mathematical skills in educational contexts can be characterized as drill-and-practice that helps automatize basic skills, but often leads to inert routine skills instead of adaptive and flexible number knowledge. In this article we summarize findings of studies which describe students’ self-initiated, deliberate practice in learning number knowledge and intervention studies applying deliberate practice in mathematics teaching, including technology-based learning environments aimed at triggering practice that goes beyond mechanical repeating of number skills.
KeywordsMathematics Education Instructional Design Conceptual Knowledge Procedural Knowledge Mathematical Skill
This research was supported by the Academy of Finland Grant 274163 to the first author.
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