The Primacy-Recency Effect: a conversation with Elizabeth (episode II)

16 Jul

Dear Elizabeth,

I was so glad to know of others out there familiar with Primacy-Recency Effect. I first learned about it when Jill encouraged me to read How the Brain Learns Mathematics. I still love her blog post about her school’s Social Media Experiment for practicing primacy-recency.

My colleagues and I have been thinking a lot about #AskDontTell learning episodes, but we also recognize that the mathematics does eventually need to be revealed and we need to provide a balance between conceptual development, fluency, and application.

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When I think about how most math classes I attended were set up (and some that I still visit), we were definitely going over homework during Prime-time-1, learning new material during Down-time, and starting our homework/practice during Prime-time-2.

Doesn’t that have to be different than providing students an opportunity for productive struggle during Prime-time-1, even if some of the framing moves into Down-time?

I wonder how these ideas are connected to the deep practice that Daniel Coyle emphasizes in The Talent Code, and in particular, to his experiment about struggle.

We have the luxury of 95-minute classes, and so our takeaway from learning about the Primacy-Recency Effect and thinking about when and how students encounter a new idea has been to create a series of smaller learning episodes (usually 4) for the block, maximizing the amount of Prime-time. (This doesn’t work for every single class period, but our collaboration in creating lessons makes it happen more often than if we worked in isolation.)

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 2.51.54 PM

I still start my classes with an opener that gives students some team practice on the mathematics that we have been doing and pushes them a bit towards the mathematics for the day’s lesson … Learning Episode 1. Every time I read this article, though, I wonder whether I should continue that practice? Would the opener be better as a closer … Learning Episode 4?

Thank you for thinking through these questions with me.



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