ERIC Number: ED369822
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1994-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Using Informal Knowledge in Formal Domains: Intuitions and Notations Sometimes Clash.
Merrill, Douglas C.; Reiser, Brian J.
External representations have a great impact on what and how students learn. One key manner in which environments can operate upon novices' knowledge is through helping them ground their problem solving in an understanding of the situation embodied by the problem. In this paper, students' difficulties in microeconomics problem solving were investigated, along with the ways traditional representations such as supply and demand graphs interfere with students' situational understanding. Fourteen gifted students in grades 7 through 9 were videotaped solving a few economics problems similar to those found in typical introductory economics courses. How they used the diagrams to help themselves construct an understanding of the situation was studied. It was found that students who experienced minor impasses relied on the notation to overcome them, even though that sometimes led the students into worse errors. In contrast, when the notation did not offer any support for the reasoning, students fell back on reasoning about the situation in the world and were often more successful. Based on these results, it is argued that not only must the initial problem solving in a domain be based on novices' understanding of the world, but also that the notation used for the problem solving must encourage students to use this understanding to guide planning and to overcome impasses throughout the problem solving. Eight figures illustrate study data. (Contains 27 references.) (Author/SLD)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Spencer Foundation, Chicago, IL.; Army Research Inst. for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, Alexandria, VA.
Authoring Institution: N/A