# Strategy flexibility in algebraic problem solving: The influence of feedback and learners’ characteristics

- Daniela Nussbaumer,
*ETH Zurich*
- Michael Schneider,
*University of Trier*
- Elsbeth Stern,
*ETH Zurich*

## Abstract

The ability to choose problem solving strategies flexibly and
adaptively is an important part of expertise. However, it is unclear how simple
forms of problem solving practice affect flexibility. We investigate to what
extent flexibility in strategy use is dependent on learners’
characteristics as intelligence, working memory and prior knowledge and to what
extent these individual differences influence how a student can exploit a
learning situation.
In a microgenetic design with 24 trials of a mathematical problem solving task,
we found that ninth-graders adaptivity of strategy choices increased linearly
during practice without feedback and that feedback on strategy adaptivity
facilitated the process. Adapting strategy choices to problem types led to
shorter solution paths, higher solution rates, and higher speed. This is true
independently of students’ intelligence or working memory capacity.
However, prior knowledge was a predictor of adaptivity, thus leading to a faster
development of adaptivity.

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