Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Spaced Retrieval in Math

Board, School, Uni, Learn, Work, TestSpaced retrieval and retrieval practice are proving their worth in helping students learn and retain math.  Research shows that testing done in the proper manner helps improve learning but that is the key.

Most of us think or testing as a form of assessment or as a way for the state to determine the effectiveness of the school but it doesn't have to be that way.

What spaced retrieval and retrieval practice boil down to is simply giving students a way to frequently practice retrieving the material.  So how would that look in math?

One form might be using the smart board to present the question while students work out the answer and vote for the correct one using a clicker.  It might be having the students work out the problems on their iPads and hold up the finished product so you have a quick glance.

Since I have not gotten my iPads yet this year, I had each individual person do the problem, check with their table mates to make sure they all had the same answer before sharing it with me.  This worked quite well with these students.

According to Scientific American taking the test and providing well designed pre and post activities can increase student learning significantly.  Furthermore, tests are not used for assessment but as a way to further learning.  Every time a student accesses the material in their memory, the memory changes so it is a stronger, more accessible and more stable.

This altering of the memory is in preparation for needing the knowledge in the future.  Recalling the information causes more activity in certain areas in the brain that help stabilize the memories.  It has been found that the more active these areas are, the better we remember the material.

Basically, retrieval practice is what makes the information stick in our brains.  In addition, it helps us develop a deeper learning.  The end result is that we are able to transfer knowledge from one situation to another.  In fact, regular quizzes helps students perform better on unit tests.

Several other articles recommend that students continue asking questions on the material even after the section is finished so students have to work on retrieving the material.  This continuation is referred to as spaced retrieval.  Results indicate that spaced retrieval improves overall test scores at the end of the semester because they are able to access the information.

Keep in mind that space retrieval means students are being exposed to the material for briefer periods over a longer period of time.  If you have finished slope, be sure to include quiz questions on the topic for the rest of the year so students have to access their memory.

So how can you change your teaching so you include additional repetitive practice over the school year so you are having students practice spaced retrieval?