A new study released by Carnegie Mellon researches shows that brain activity patterns can be used to identify the stages of thinking used when learning mathematical concepts.
The study used functional MRI to identify patterns. By using the MRI while students worked on a math problem, researchers discovered that there were four distinct stages to problem solving. The use of the MRI made it possible for researches to observe students solving math problems and know which stage of thinking was in action at any given point in problem solving.
Lead researcher John Anderson, the R.K. Mellon University Professor of Psychology and Computer Science believes these findings can be used to match the method of instruction to the cognitive functioning of students. Rather than simply timing the amount of time taken to complete a problem, this study examined the amount of time devoted to each of the four stages of cognition.
With an understanding of the time students spend on encoding, planning, solving, and responding to different types of mathematical problems, Anderson hopes to create more effective ways to deliver instruction to students of mathematics.