# The Effect of Varying Problem Contexts on Learning Probability Rules

- Tiantian Jin,
*Columbia University*
- Marianna Lamnina,
*Columbia University*

## Abstract

While previous research shows that varying problem contexts
generally facilitates learning (Ranzijin, 1991), it is still unknown how much
variability is ideal. Since it is often more economical for teachers to use
consistent problem contexts, it is valuable to know how much variability is
needed. We examined this in teaching probability. Students randomly assigned to
one of three groups learned four rules with four worked examples each, differing
in context variability: One group learned four rules with the same cover story
(all examples for all rules used cards), the second group with different cover
stories per rule (multiplication taught with cards, permutation, with spinners),
and the third group with varying cover stories within each rule (addition taught
with cards, spinners, marbles, and dice). Learning with context varying within
rules led to the greatest learning gains from pretest to posttest. We discuss
implications of these findings and underway follow-up research.

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