The influence of feedback on the flexibility of strategy choices in algebraic problem solving

Daniela NussbaumerETH Zurich
Michael SchneiderUniversity of Trier
Elsbeth SternETH Zurich

Abstract

The ability to choose problem solving strategies flexibly and adaptively is an important part of proficiency. However, it is unclear how simple forms of problem solving practice as well as feedback affect this ability. On the one hand, as demonstrated by the Einstellung and Stroop effect, practice can decrease adaptivity. On the other hand, practice helps to associate problem types with effective solution strategies what can increase adaptivity. In a microgenetic design with 48 trials of a mathematical problem solving task, we found that the adaptivity of strategy choices increased linearly during practice without feedback in a group of ninth-graders. Instructional support to stimulate insight sped up this process in a second experimental group. The results are interpreted in terms of cognitive models of strategy choices. They demonstrate the adaptive nature of human problem solving with minimal informational input.

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