Friday, March 24, 2017

Transfering Knowledge From Math to Other Subjects.

Cogs, Gears, Machine, Mechanical  Math is one of those subjects which provide a foundation for science, engineering, statistics, and other professions.  It has been noticed that students often are able to perform the mathematics in their math class but when required to perform the math in another subject, they cannot do it. 

I've seen it myself.  When students are required to perform conversions such as inches to feet or centimeters to meters in science they struggle but they can do it in math.  They even struggle when trying to solve a linear equation in science they easily solved in math.

There have been several studies on why students have difficulty transferring the knowledge between the math classroom and other subjects.  The results are quite interesting, especially as factors can start as early as pre-school.

We all know that mathematics has its own language which can be quite specialized or at least have meanings different from conversational use.  One researcher discovered a better indicator of success is the amount of math vocabulary a child has.  If a child does not understand basic words such as "plus" or "times" they have difficulty learning math.  In addition, with out the basic vocabulary, they have difficulty expressing the answers.

Its also been discovered the way a concept is presented can improve a students ability to know when and how to apply it to a situation.  The type of practice does make a difference. Rather than focusing on the symbolic practice, expand it to problems which help students see the underlying relationships among the numbers.  In other words, if you are making paint and you change the ratios of the basic colors, you change the final color.  You would have students use a simulation to practice doing this so they see how the changes in the ratios, change the color.

Another observation boils down to the way students practice the material in "clean" situations while most of the time, the applications are actually "messier" and they don't know how to move from the clean to messy situation.  The clean situation is really just drilling while the messier is application.

It is recommended that teachers teach and test understanding when applied to various situation to help transfer their knowledge. In addition, it is suggested the teacher establish and highlight the goal of transference to the students.  It is important to visit and revisit the goal.

Furthermore, students need to judge what skills should be used under which situation so they can transfer knowledge. One way is to model think alouds so students observe the process in action.  Then have them practice this skill with immediate feedback so they learn how to apply their knowledge to a situation.  This helps develop their transfer knowledge skill.

This is focusing on one specific technique to help develop transference of knowledge.  I'll touch on more later on next week.  I hope you all have a good day.  Let me know what you think about this topic.