Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ever tried. Ever failed

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Gaping Void

Singapore, the land of many math geniuses, may have discovered the secret to learning mathematics (pdf). It employs a teaching method called productive failure (pdf), pioneered by Manu Kapur, head of the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore.

Students who are presented with unfamiliar concepts, asked to work through them, and then taught the solution significantly outperform those who are taught through formal instruction and problem-solving. The approach is both utterly intuitive—we learn from mistakes—and completely counter-intuitive: letting kids flail around with unfamiliar math concepts seems both inefficient and potentially damaging to their confidence.

Kapur believes that struggle activates parts of the brain that trigger deeper learning. Students have to figure out three critical things: what they know, the limits of what they know, and exactly what they do not know. Floundering first elevates the learning from knowing a formula to understanding it, and applying it in unfamiliar contexts.


If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Ken Robinson

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Harlan Ellison