The use of explicit algorithms and episodic context to teach subtraction to students with learning problems in mathematics /
Ailles, Douglas S.
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This research attempted to address the question of the role of explicit algorithms and episodic contexts in the acquisition of computational procedures for regrouping in subtraction. Three groups of students having difficulty learning to subtract with regrouping were taught procedures for doing so through either an explicit algorithm, an episodic content or an examples approach. It was hypothesized that the use of an explicit algorithm represented in a flow chart format would facilitate the acquisition and retention of specific procedural steps relative to the other two conditions. On the other hand, the use of paragraph stories to create episodic content was expected to facilitate the retrieval of algorithms, particularly in a mixed presentation format. The subjects were tested on similar, near, and far transfer questions over a four-day period. Near and far transfer algorithms were also introduced on Day Two. The results suggested that both explicit and episodic context facilitate performance on questions requiring subtraction with regrouping. However, the differential effects of these two approaches on near and far transfer questions were not as easy to identify. Explicit algorithms may facilitate the acquisition of specific procedural steps while at the same time inhibiting the application of such steps to transfer questions. Similarly, the value of episodic context in cuing the retrieval of an algorithm may be limited by the ability of a subject to identify and classify a new question as an exemplar of a particular episodically deflned problem type or category. The implications of these findings in relation to the procedures employed in the teaching of Mathematics to students with learning problems are discussed in detail.