Interleaved Retrieval Practice

Share Cognitive Science Implications for Teaching Mathematics

Practice that’s spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility.
The learning from interleaved practice feels slower than learning from massed practice. Teachers and students sense the difference. They can see that their grasp of each element is coming more slowly, and the compensating long-term advantage is not apparent to them. As a result, interleaving is unpopular and seldom used.
A significant advantage of interleaving and variation is that they help us learn better how to assess context and discriminate between problems, selecting and applying the correct solution from a range of possibilities.
There are a few simple devices/methods that a learner can use to make retrieval practice a regular and prominent part of studying. I will briefly describe the use of flashcards, exercises, and quizzes.
1. Flashcards
The use of flashcards has the immediate and obvious advantage of being easy for the learner to construct and use. I like 3X5 cards. One side contains a name of what I am trying to recall, the other side contains the item. (E.g. front contains the words distance formula and back contains the formula.)
To read a recommended system for the most effective use of flashcards go to
then click on button with the name “Leitner Boxes” and read Pages 4 and 5.
If you prefer online flashcards there are several good options but most of them do not accommodate mathematics. They almost all have apps for mobile devices.
It seems that works with MathType from DesignScience to permit entering mathematics.
I have worked with Quizlet . It is easy to work with and has a number of options but is unacceptable for math.
Mnemosyne permits the use of LaTex for entering mathematics. Therefore, it should be possible to use MathType to create the desired math and then export it as LaTex into Mnemosyne flashcards.
2. Low stakes exercises and quizzes
Although it is not absolutely necessary exercises and quizzes are generally part of the instructional material provided to the student. A particular exercise set should contain question related to the current section and a sizable sample of questions related to previous sections. They should be mixed up not provided in categories. A particular exercise set should contain a wider variety of types of questions – write a definition, rule, or theorem, solve an equation, explain why something is true, provide an example or counterexample, true/false, multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, provide elaboration, solve a problem using generation. They should be mixed up not provided in categories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *