Is memorisation a good strategy for learning mathematics?

March 23, 2016 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

This eye-grabbing title is  the latest Pisa in Focus (#61) monograph from OECD.  Many education systems are debating this very issue: should students be learning by rote, including memorisation, vs discovery or  a  more inquiry-based program?  The PISA study found finds the most 15 years olds commonly use  memorisations to learn math;  in Canada 28% of students reported that they mostly memorise to prepare for a math test. However the ‘better’ students (perseverant, positive) were less likely to use memorisation strategies.

From page 4:  “In some situations, memorisation is useful, even necessary. It can give students enough concrete facts on which to reflect; it can limit anxiety by reducing mathematics to a set of simple facts, rules and procedures; and it can help to develop fluency with numbers early in a child’s development, before the child is asked to tackle more complex problems. But to perform at the very top, 15-year-olds need to learn mathematics in a more reflective, ambitious and creative way – one that involves exploring alternative ways of finding solutions, making connections, adopting different perspectives and looking for meaning. So yes, you can use your memory, just use it strategically.

Bonus, read the blog article. Final paragraph: “In some situations, memorisation is useful, even necessary. It can give students enough concrete facts on which to reflect; it can limit anxiety by reducing mathematics to a set of simple facts, rules and procedures; and it can help to develop fluency with numbers early in a child’s development, before the child is asked to tackle more complex problems. But to perform at the very top, 15-year-olds need to learn mathematics in a more reflective, ambitious and creative way – one that involves exploring alternative ways of finding solutions, making connections, adopting different perspectives and looking for meaning”.

Check it out!

Rowan

Entry filed under: Education Research, Internet Resources, OECD, Uncategorized. Tags: , .

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