In today’s CEN seminar, Prof. Lindsey Richland talked about her research which looks at factors affecting maths performance – making connections (e.g. Teaching mathematics by comparison: Analog visibility as a double-edged sword), impact of executive functions (e.g. Executive function in learning mathematics by comparison: incorporating everyday classrooms into the science of learning) and impact of stereotyping and expectations (e.g. Stereotype Threat Effects on Learning From a Cognitively Demanding Mathematics Lesson).
“Children’s executive functions are well known to predict overall mathematics achievement, but their role in everyday classroom learning is not always considered in educational reform. Strategies for raising the quality of classroom mathematics instruction has led to the recommendation that teachers use more lessons designed to increase students’ engagement in higher level reasoning, yet teaching these lessons effectively for all students is challenging. I describe a series of experiments using one such instructional practice, comparing multiple solutions to key problems, to show that by considering the cognitive demands of such a specific learning context, we can infer ways to improve the likelihood of student learning and better understand mechanisms that may lead to achievement gaps. I’ll show that visual-spatial cues and reminders of relevant mathematics background may aid students in gaining more, while individual differences in executive function resources, pressure, and identity threats may exacerbate achievement gaps in learning from identical lessons.”