What evidence-based mathematics instructional strategies can teachers employ?
Page 8: Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is a teaching method that uses small, heterogeneous (that is, mixed-ability) groups to maximize the learning of each of those groups’ members. Teachers give the students problems to provide them with opportunities to practice or review mathematics skills or concepts. Discussing and solving problems as a group can help students to move from a concrete level of understanding to a more abstract level of understanding. Cooperative learning also helps students to develop social skills by creating a context for interaction. In addition to improving academic performance and cultivating more positive social behaviors, cooperative learning has been found to:
- Lead to greater motivation toward learning
- Increase time on task
- Improve self-esteem
The video below shows a teacher assigning students to small groups for a cooperative-learning task. The students then work together to solve a mathematic problem related to angles (time: 1:42).
Research has demonstrated that some cooperative learning programs (i.e., Team-Accelerated Instruction [TAI], Student Teams-Achievement Divisions [STAD]) have yielded favorable results for improving computation skills. However, neither TAI or STAD have demonstrated positive results for improving students’ understanding of higher-order mathematic concepts. Research has also demonstrated that cooperative learning methods have yielded especially favorable results for students in at-risk groups, such as those with learning disabilities and English language learners.