The Disappearing “Advantages of Abstract Examples in Learning Math”

AbstractWhen introducing a novel mathematical idea, should we present learners with concrete or abstract examples of this idea? Considerable efforts have been made over the last decade to settle this question in favor of either concrete or abstract representations. We contribute to this discussion through a critical replication and extension of a well-known study in this area. Whereas the target article argues for the general superiority of abstract representations, we demonstrate that seemingly minor modifications of the study design indicate otherwise. Our results suggest that the previously reported “advantage of abstract examples” manifested not because abstract examples are advantageous in general, but because the earlier studies utilized concrete examples that are pedagogically suboptimal.

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