A wonderful article on Futurity. The authors investigated whether children learn algebra better when:
- Physically moving magnetic numbers on a white board.
- Pretending to move the numbers by going through the motions.
- Pointing at the relevant terms and the unknown quantity.
Any guess which one won?
To my surprise it was 3. I guessed 1.
In method 3 the children were taught to spot the number that appears on both sides of the equation (9 above) and then point to the other two (4 and 5 above) while also pointing at the unknown (x).
Method 3 seems to give children a more generalised understanding of the problem whereas 1 and 2 perform quite well so long as the form of the equations doesn't change too much.