Mixing up topics to boost understanding

At Numerise, maths is more than just test scores for us. We want to make sure learners build long term confidence and are ready to tackle maths in the outside world, as well as preparing for exams.

This blog is part of a series where we talk about some of the learning techniques that we use within Numerise to help learners not only understand new, tricky maths skills but remember them for longer. One technique that we use to help with this is interleaving. We also have blogs on two other learning techniques used in Numerise: scaffolding and spaced practice.

Image visualises what scaffolding, interleaving and spaced practice looks like with circles representing topics.

What is interleaving?

Interleaving is a learning technique that mixes questions from different topics together.

You will often see a series of the same type of question in a row. For example, 10 questions on solving two-step equations. This is called “blocked practice”. Once you are more confident with a new concept, that’s where interleaving comes in. Interleaving is where we ask a range of different questions in a chunk of work. This isn’t to confuse learners; interleaving has been shown to significantly increase test scores when compared with blocking.

Image visualises blocked practice and interleaving.

Why does it work?

In maths, knowing where to start is often the hardest part! This is because similar looking questions often require very different strategies.

Here’s an example of two questions from Numerise. The questions are very similar but the solutions are very different.

Image shows two similar-looking maths questions that actually require quite different methods to solve.

When questions are interleaved, instead of using the same method as the previous question, learners need to carefully consider which method to use and start to build a better understanding of when to use each method as well as understanding the links between topics.

When does interleaving help?

Blocked practice can be really valuable when learners are faced with a new type of problem that they haven’t come across before. Once they have learnt how to solve the problem, that’s when interleaving comes in.

How do we use interleaving strategies in Numerise?

Our lessons use blocked practice so that children can build confidence when learning a new topic. Then, we use interleaving in the quizzes and personalised revision to make sure it has stuck in their mind.

This is just one of the ways we personalise their experience in Numerise. We also use other spaced practice to dramatically improve long-term learning – you can find out more in this blog.

Where can I find out more?

This short podcast by the learning scientists is a great place to start. And as always, if you have any questions please let us know on [email protected].