Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Importance of Practice: Concepts, Facts & Procedures

Here is another article, Practice Makes Perfect, from Daniel Willingham that I found interesting. I highlighted a few points in the link provided. Some notable quotes:
It is difficult to overstate the value of practice. For a new skill to become automatic or for new knowledge to become long-lasting, sustained practice, beyond the point of mastery, is necessary.
Practice until you are perfect and you will be perfect only briefly. What's necessary is sustained practice. By sustained practice I mean regular, ongoing review or use of the target material (e.g., regularly using new calculating skills to solve increasingly more complex math problems, reflecting on recently-learned historical material as one studies a subsequent history unit, taking regular quizzes or tests that draw on material learned earlier in the year). This kind of practice past the point of mastery is necessary to meet any of these three important goals of instruction: acquiring facts and knowledge, learning skills, or becoming an expert.
Our ability to think would be limited indeed if there were not ways to overcome the space constraint of working memory. One of the more important mechanisms is the development of automaticity. When cognitive processes (e.g., reading, writing grammatically, reading a map, identifying the dependent variable in a science experiment, using simple mathematical procedures) become automatic, they demand very little space in working memory, they occur rapidly, and they often occur without conscious effort.
In mathematics, it seems clear that there is a mandate to develop automaticity in certain base facts and procedures. Failure to develop automaticity in their early years of mathematics is one of the primary roadblocks for students I teach in grades 10-12 and much of the time spent in remediation is focused on developing skills that should have been made "automatic" in earlier years.

There is much more in the original article and these points tie back perfectly to the early Willingham article I shared titled, Is It True That Some People Just Can't Learn Math.

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