kitchen table math, the sequel: implicit learning, verbal reasoning, and personality

Friday, April 8, 2011

implicit learning, verbal reasoning, and personality

This looks interesting:

Implicit learning as an ability.
Kaufman SB, Deyoung CG, Gray JR, Jiménez L, Brown J, Mackintosh N.
Cognition. 2010 Sep;116(3):321-40. Epub 2010 Jun 22.

Looks like math is more heavily dependent upon explicit learning than language --- which makes sense, given that language is innate and math isn't (or not so much, at any rate).

Yet more evidence that the K-12, constructivist preference for tacit or implicit learning as opposed to direct, focused, conscious learning is a very bad idea when it comes to math.


Catherine Johnson said...

I wonder what this says, if anything, about becoming a better reader.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think this also has to connect in some way to the fact that the math section of the SAT (and presumably the ACT) is somewhat 'coachable,' whereas the reading section is not.

Or, at least, people seem to have much larger gains on math than on reading.

Allison said...

Did you leave the word "bad" out of your post?

RMD said...

" . . .given that language is innate and math isn't (or not so much, at any rate)"

Why is language innate? Just because we use it more often doesn't mean that it is somehow innate and can't get better with more work.

These types of arguments let educators slack off when it comes to teaching language skills.

MagisterGreen said...

Chomsky's notions of a universal grammar, which actually trace back to medieval grammarians' thoughts about the universality of language, are what Catherine's getting at here I think. If, as proponents suggest, we as humans are hardwired to create language then language is, to a degree, innate. This would help explain why very young children (< 4 yrs old) have little to no difficulty functioning across two or more languages, although this faculty diminishes very rapidly as a child ages out of infancy.

To say that language is innate does not mean that it cannot improve with explicit teaching. In fact I've found that a great number of people do not understand that the window for children to easily acquire a second language closes much sooner than they think. That's when this whole notion of the innateness of language starts causing all sorts of problems because it is used as an excuse to slack off on grammar and even to insist that wrong spelling, syntax, etc... are somehow valid and 'authentic' (Ye gods how I despise that word!) forms of expression.

C T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C T said...

In support of MagisterGreen's comment, please see this research published last year: To summarize, they found that not all English speakers grasped basic grammar, specifically the passive voice.

Dr Dabrowska comments: "These findings are ground breaking, because for decades the theoretical and educational consensus has been solid. Regardless of educational attainment or dialect we are all supposed to be equally good at grammar, in the sense of being able to use grammatical cues to understand the meaning of sentences....The supposition that everyone in a linguistic community shares the same grammar is a central tenet of Noam Chomsky's theory of universal grammar. The theory assumes that all children learn language equally well and that there must therefore be an underlying common structure to all languages that is somehow "hard-wired" into the brain....She also stressed that the findings have nothing to do with intelligence. Participants with low levels of educational attainment were given instruction following the tests, and they were able to learn the constructions very quickly. She speculates that this could be because their attention was not drawn to sentence construction by parents or teachers when they were children.
She adds: "Our results show that a proportion of people with low educational attainment make errors with understanding the passive, and it appears that this and other important areas of core grammar may not be fully mastered by some speakers, even by adulthood.

So it would appear that grammar occasionally must be TAUGHT. :)