Stanford GSE Research Identifies Better Way to Teach Abstract Math to Children

July 8, 2015
GSE Learn Better Math

The new strategy recruits the brain’s use of visual symmetry to make sense of the physical world, and it could have profound implications for the way elementary schools teach math.

Using symmetry appears to have helped not just in teaching children about negative numbers but in improving their ability to solve higher-level math problems they haven’t seen before.

“Learning about negative numbers is one of the first times that kids learn about abstract numbers – it’s a gateway to more abstract learning,” said Jessica Tsang, a Stanford researcher and lead author of a new study with Daniel Schwartz and Kristen Blair of Stanford and Laura Bofferding of Purdue University.

“The big difference was that the symmetry instruction enabled students to solve novel problems and to continue learning without explicit instruction,” said Schwartz, who holds the Nomellini & Olivier Professorship in Educational Technology at Stanford. “By untangling how the brain comes to know mathematics, we helped with a major goal of education – putting children on an upward trajectory of future learning.”

Read the entire Stanford News story by Edmund L. Andrews HERE.

In addition, Professor Schwartz has been named Dean for the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He will begin this new role on September 1st.

Read this story HERE.

Several of Professor Schwartz’ research projects have received funding from mediaX at Stanford University:

*EteRNA: Accelerating Knowledge Creation for RNA Bioengineering through Internet-Scale Gaming
*The Willful Pupil Project 
*Stratman: A Teachable Agent for Strategy Learning 
*Benevolent demon: A Hidden Conductor for Orchestrating Learning Interactions
*A Teachable Agent for Learning Management Training

Congratulations on your new position.
Photo Credits: AAALab@Stanford (lab photo) Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service (Daniel Schwartz Photo)