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In an article in Science Times, by Benedict Carey, we learn that cognitive scientists are making the case for strengthening “perceptual” learning.
This is what might be called “gut instinct,” the instantaneous grasp of a problem like that of a ballplayer who can “read” pitches early or the chessmaster who “sees” the best move. They believe it can be trained into being.
At New Roads School in Santa Monica California, students are using an online program that prompts them to match graphs to equations, dozens and dozens of them, and fast — often before they have time to work out the correct answer.
An equation will appear on the screen and below it three graphs (or a graph with three equations below). A student clicks on one and the screen flashes to tell herwhether she’s right or wrong and immediately jumps to the next problem. Says junior Wynn Haimer,
I’m much better at it. In the beginning it was difficult, having to work so quickly; but you sort of get used to it, and in the end it’s more intuitive. It becomes more effortless.
For years curricula have stressed a top-down instruction for topics like math and science. Learn the rules first — the theorems, the order of operations, Newton’s laws — and then work on solving some problems. This method turns top-down strategies on their head.
A small group of cognitive scientists argues that the brain is a pattern-recognition machine. They say that when focussed properly, it can quickly deepen an individual’s grasp of a principle. New studies are suggesting this is true.
Read Carey’s article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/health/07learn.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=Benedict%20Carey&st=cse
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