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National Science Foundation
Education - An Overview of NSF Research
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Photo, caption follows:

Second graders at Hartford Avenue University School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, invent their own math games. The school is a participant in the Milwaukee Urban Systemic Initiative.
Credit: Sam Castro, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Research Profile Magazine


How Do We Learn?
For many years, educators have concentrated on evaluating what students are learning. Now, researchers in the field of cognitive science are gathering information about how learning takes place. Such research suggests that:

  • teachers need to take into account student preconceptions about the content
  • students need an organizing framework in order to better retrieve and use knowledge
  • all learners need ways to monitor their own progress

A relatively new program called Research on Learning and Education (ROLE) funds efforts to acquire knowledge related to human learning ranging from the biological basis of learning to educational system change. One recent study shed light on how spatial skills are learned and enhanced through means such as practice, modeling, the use of maps and language and the use of spatial tools such as measurement systems and graphs. Spatial competence is important across many domains, including math and science.

In another project, research is underway to study early introduction of algebraic concepts and notation in elementary school, an area of study known as early algebra. Previous studies found that third- and fourth-grade children who took part in early algebra activities learned many important algebraic concepts. The current study continues this work and follows students as they transition to algebra in sixth- through eighth-grade math courses.

What do teachers need to know? [Next]