The Effectiveness Of Comparing Correct and Incorrect Examples for Learning About Decimal Magnitude
Comparing common mathematical errors to correct examples may help people overcome misconceptions. We examined whether comparing incorrect and correct examples was more effective than comparing two correct examples for students learning about decimal magnitude. Fourth- and fifth-grade students (N = 74) were randomly assigned to two conditions: 1) comparing correct and incorrect examples (incorrect condition) or 2) comparing correct examples only (correct condition). Comparing incorrect examples to correct examples helped students learn correct procedures and remember key concepts beyond the general benefits of comparing two correct examples. Students' explanations during the intervention revealed that those in the incorrect condition more frequently discussed correct concepts (e.g. the magnitude of a decimal and identifying misconceptions). Overall, contrasting mathematical errors with correct examples can help people overcome misconceptions, in part by focusing attention on correct concepts.