Overlearning Mathematical Principles: The Key to Problem-Solving Transfer?

Year: 1985

Author: Cooper, Graham

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Evidence is accumulating that the means-ends problem-solving strategies adopted by novice problem solvers result in minimal acquisition of problem schemas. Presenting problems in a manner which prevents means-ends analysis leads to enhanced learning. It is proposed that transfer of problem solving schemas will only occur once a particular concept can be represented in fully abstract form and it is hypothesised that such abstract representations may be facilitated by a heavy use of worked examples.
The present paper reports two experiments designed to test this hypothesis using simple algebra problems. The results indicate that subjects who received worked examples were better able to transfer such relevent schemas to dissimilar algebra problems than those subjects trained using conventional problems. It is suggested that this provides evidence that the cognitive load associated with means-ends analysis inhibits the acquisition of schemas and abstract concepts.