Merging Cognitive Science and Curriculum to Strengthen Middle School Math

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Consider that colorful photographs, eye-catching illustrations, and captivating images intended to make textbooks more appealing may actually distract students from the lesson at hand.

Or that asking students to simply solve math problems might not be as effective as having them explain the steps of solutions that are already worked out—even some that are worked out incorrectly.

Although such statements may sound counterintuitive, they reflect well-established research findings on the cognitive science behind student learning. And it is these and other such findings that are guiding researchers at WestEd’s National Center on Cognition & Mathematics Instruction (the Math Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education) as they apply research-based principles to revise a widely used middle school math curriculum.

The redesign is intended to provide a kind of blueprint that curriculum developers can use to make their work—in any number of curricular areas—more effective.

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