Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

pp 2945-2946

Schema-Based Instruction

  • Sandra P. MarshallAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, San Diego State University Email author 


Problem solving; Visual representation


Schema-based instruction is a method of teaching problem solving that emphasizes both the semantic structure of the problem and its mathematical structure. It utilizes recognition of key words (as does a simple key-word strategy) but goes further than simple recognition to stress understanding of the situation represented in the problem.

Theoretical Background

Most schema-based instruction has targeted arithmetic word problems or algebra word problems. Research has shown that students have difficulty solving these problems for many reasons. A large number of errors can be traced to improper understanding of the problem itself, rather than inability to do the correct arithmetic. In the 1980s and 1990s, many psychological and mathematical educational researchers became interested in the basic cognitive issues required in problem solving (see schema-based problem solving) and began to investigate ...

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