The benefit of interleaved mathematics practice is not limited to superficially similar kinds of problems
Most mathematics assignments consist of a group of problems requiring the same strategy. For example, a lesson on the quadratic formula is typically followed by a block of problems requiring students to use that formula, which means that students know the appropriate strategy before they read each problem. In an alternative approach, different kinds of problems appear in an interleaved order, which requires students to choose the strategy on the basis of the problem itself. In the classroom-based experiment reported here, grade 7 students (n = 140) received blocked or interleaved practice over a nine-week period, followed two weeks later by an unannounced test. The mean test scores were greater for material learned by interleaved practice rather than by blocked practice (72 % vs. 38 %, d = 1.05). This interleaving effect was observed even though the different kinds of problems were superficially dissimilar from each other, whereas previous interleaved mathematics studies had required students to learn nearly identical kinds of problems. We conclude that interleaving improves mathematics learning not only by improving discrimination between different kinds of problems, but also by strengthening the association between each kind of problem and its corresponding strategy.
KeywordsLearning Mathematics Interleaved Spacing Practice
- Le Blanc, K., & Simon, D. (2008). Mixed practice enhances retention and JOL accuracy for mathematical skills. Chicago: Paper presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society.Google Scholar
- Siegler, R. S. (2003). Implications of cognitive science research for mathematics education. In J. Kilpatrick, G. W. Martin, & D. E. Schifter (Eds.), A research companion to principles and standards for school mathematics (pp. 219–233). Reston: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
- Yazdani, M. A., & Zebrowski, E. (2006). Spaced reinforcement: An effective approach to enhance the achievement in plane geometry. Journal of Mathematical Sciences and Mathematics Education, 37–43.Google Scholar