A Little Less Conversation: Using Non-Declarative Learning Techniques to Help Working Memory Deficient Students Learn Important Math Skills04/05/2018
For many students, mathematics is an area of study characterized by complicated material, misconception, and anxiety. Unfortunately, some math interventions tasked with alleviating these issues actually exacerbate them due to an overreliance on working memory demanding techniques like explicit conceptual instruction. This means that individuals with diminished working memory capacity (stemming from either dispositional or situational factors) are placed at a significant disadvantage when it comes to learning math skills in a traditional educational context. However, research in the field of grammar suggests a potential solution: implicit learning techniques. Research in that field suggests that implicit learning experiences can be successfully applied to domains that are dependent on working memory, error persistent, and governed by complex rules that are difficult to articulate. The present study applied implicit learning techniques that have proven successful in other fields- vanishing cues and errorless learning- to symbolic magnitude estimation training. Specifically, we developed an efficient educational intervention for second-grade students that minimizes the detrimental effects of low working memory capacity and high math anxiety while still helping students construct the linear representational structure necessary for later success in complex mathematics. Preliminary results suggest that participants in the implicit learning group were more accurate on the number line task than participants in the more traditional declarative group. These findings support our hypothesis that implicit learning might be an effective intervention for teaching children number sense.