ERIC Identifier: ED260891
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Suydam, Marilyn N.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
The Role of Review in Mathematics Instruction. ERIC/SMEAC
Mathematics Education Digest No. 2.
What are the reasons for reviewing? When should reviewing be done? What
instructional procedures for reviewing are effective? Answers to these
questions, drawn from research and other literature, are outlined in the
sections that follow.
REASONS FOR REVIEWING
In addition to promoting retention, review should be incorporated into
mathematics instruction for the following, somewhat overlapping reasons:
--Review promotes continuity and helps students to attain a more
comprehensive view of the mathematical topics covered. It helps them summarize
main ideas, develop generalizations, and get an overall view of what they have
been learning piecemeal.
--Review helps students to assimilate or consolidate what they have learned,
enabling them to fit ideas into new patterns.
--Review serves as a diagnostic tool, revealing weaknesses and strengths to
students and teachers. It helps teachers identify what is already known and what
is not yet known; then reteaching can be planned.
--Review assures that the prerequisites needed for learning new content have
--Review adds to students' confidence in their ability to move successfully
to new mathematical topics.
TIMING OF REVIEWS
Most textbooks incorporate review sections at both the beginning and the end
of most chapters. Saxon (1982) takes exception to this pattern, terming it
"spastic." He argues that review should be continuous. Instead of presenting 25
problems on a new topic, he suggests that only three or four be given, along
with 25 review problems. He claims that his data show that this approach helps
students attain mastery.
Research clearly indicates that review should be systematically planned and
incorporated into the instructional program. Before a new topic or unit is
begun, an inventory can help the teacher ascertain whether any prerequisite
knowledge is missing. Such a review also helps students to pull together the
mathematical ideas they will need for the new topic. The inventory should
include the range from simpler skills and concepts to the most difficult in
order to pinpoint those which need to be retaught.
Daily review of homework alone is not sufficient; it often concerns only a
small portion of the needed prerequisites for a new topic.
After a topic or unit is taught, key points or objectives should be reviewed.
Students thus become aware of the major highlights of the lesson, so they can
focus on the mathematical skills or concepts that will be needed in future
lessons. It should be made clear to students that this is not simply a
collection of exercises and problems: the review includes those topics which are
the most important to remember.
Long-term retention is best served if assignments on a particular skill are
spread out in time, rather than concentrated within a short interval. Review
immediately after instruction consolidates the ideas from that instruction,
while delayed review aids in the relearning of forgotten material. One
researcher (Gay 1973) worked with eighth graders on four principles from algebra
and geometry. She found that, if there were to be two periods of intensive
review, it was better to space them at one and seven days after instruction,
rather than on either the first two days after the topic was taught, or after an
interval d 7 days.
Additionally, research has indicated that short periods of intensive review
are better than long periods. Interspersing review throughout the textbook or
curriculum is better than concentrating review at one time.
TYPES OF REVIEW
The process of outlining forces students to organize ideas and provides a
structure that will help students put ideas together. When students use the
outline they have made as an aid in reviewing, restructuring or recall of the
mathematical ideas is promoted.
Several researchers have focused on review questions, finding them effective
for revealing content that has not been meaningful to students. Burns (1960)
studied whether thought-provoking review study questions, spaced throughout
instruction in grade 6, would result in greater achievement with fractions and
Students who used the review questions scored significantly higher than those
using textbook drill pages. Pupils' reactions were good; they reported that they
found the questions useful and interesting.
In another study on review procedures, Lee (1980) explored the effects of
different types of review questions in a mathematics textbook. Seventh-grade
students were given work on module-seven arithmetic. A review passage consisting
of a summary of rules and examples was placed immediately after each original
passage. A review question, consisting of either words or calculations, was then
Review questions were found to facilitate retention by promoting
comprehension. Feedback helped students to consolidate what they had learned in
the course of answering the review questions, and they developed their ability
to transfer problem-solving skills. The word-type review questions required a
thorough understanding of the concepts and rules and the ability to apply them
to new situations. On the other hand, the calculation-type review questions
required only comprehension of a narrow range of concepts and rules, often
focused on rote learning.
When review questions were added to review passages, inattentive reading
often resulted. Students perceived this as too much reading; they felt they had
relearned from the passage and therefore became bored with answering the
questions. Thus, Lee concluded, only one type of review, passage or questions,
should be used at a time. If only one is used, it should probably be review
questions because they aided learning more.
A study with students in grades 6, 8, 10, 11, and 13 sought to determine if
the learning and retention of mathematical knowledge was affected by any of
three types of review procedures: testing, testing-with-explanation, and unit
review (Clayton 1974). For the unit review, a list of behavioral objectives for
the topics taught was given to students, with a worked example and an optional
exercise identical to the corresponding test item.
The test group was only given a test and then the answers. Both the unit
review and testing-with-explanation groups were given worked-out solutions for
test items and optional exercises. The reviews enhanced the learning and
retention of mathematics, with testing-with-explanation the most promising and
testing alone the least promising. As in other studies, the usefulness of
feedback in promoting achievement was apparent.
The role of differing types of homework designed for review in first-year
algebra classes was explored by Friesen (1976). One group had homework
consisting of exercises relating to the topic taught that day. Another group was
assigned fewer exercises relating to the topic taught that day, plus exploratory
exercises on content taught each of the prior two days and review exercises on
the first and third days after the teaching of a topic. The group having
exploratory and review exercises achieved and retained better than the group
having exercises related only to the daily topic.
Summerfield (1975) gave fifth and sixth graders a brief review and an
extensive review inserted into instructional materials on factors and primes. No
significant differences were found. However, high scores on the achievement test
made it appear that the review material was too easy. It may be that review is
only helpful for those who need review. This fits with Gay's finding that it was
better for students to choose the amount of review they were to have, rather
than giving everyone the same amount.
Bright and colleagues (1980) found that games provide effective review. In a
motivating situation, students can focus on the mathematics and enjoy the
process of recalling and restructuring.
Review is an important component of the mathematics instructional program. It
can't be neglected -- and it can be made interesting as well as profitable.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Burns, Paul C. "Intensive Review as a Procedure in Teaching Arithmetic."
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL 60 (January 1960):205-211.
Clayton, McLouis. "The Differential Effects of Three Types of Structured
Reviews on the Learning and Retention of Mathematics." DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS
INTERNATIONAL 35A (August 1974):904-905.
Friesen, Charles D. "The Effect of Exploratory and Review Homework Exercises
upon Achievement, Retention, and Attitude in a First-year Algebra Course."
DISSERATION ABSTRACTS INTERNATIONAL 36A (April 1976):6527.
Gay, Lorraine R. "Temporal Position of Reviews and Its Effect on the
Retention of Mathematical Rules." JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 64 (April
Good, Thomas L., and Douglas A. Grouws. "The Missouri Mathematics
Effectiveness Project: An Experimental Study in Fourth-Grade Classrooms."
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 71 (June 1979):355-362.
Lee, Hyoja. "The Effects of Review Questions and Review Passages on Transfer
Skills." JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH 73 (July/August 1980):330-335.
Pence, Barbara. "Small Group Review of Mathematics: A Function of the Review
Organization, Structure, and Task Format." DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS INTERNATIONAL
35B (December 1974):2894.
Saxon, John. "Incremental Development: A Breakthrough in Mathematics." PHI
DELTA KAPPAN 63 (March 1982):482-484.
Summerfield, Jeanettta O. "The Effect of Review of Prerequisite Skills and
Concepts on Learning a New Topic in Mathematics." DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS
INTERNATIONAL 35A (June 1975):7627.