Hemispheric preference in processing style and problem-solving ability in middle school mathematics students



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The purpose of this study was to determine whether knowledge of hemispheric preference in processing information contributed to an increase in problem-solving achievement scores of middle school mathematics students. Learner characteristics of gender, grade level, and ethnicity were not shown to be predictors of hemispheric preference. The subjects were divided into two groups. The treatment group received information regarding their individual hemispheric style preference in processing information while the control group did not. The subjects included 140 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students in a large suburban school district in southeast Texas. The students were first tested using the Human Information Processing Survey developed by Torrance, Taggert, and Taggert (1984) to ascertain their hemispheric preference in processing information - right-, left-, or mixed-hemispheric. Two forms of the Hofmann Step Problem Solving Instrument (1986) were used to test the students' abilities to solve nonroutine mathematics problems. Form A was utilized as a Pretest and Form 8 was incorporated as the Posttest. The study included a ten-day instructional segment in which the students learned how to use various solution strategies to solve nonroutine problems. The strategies had been identified as hemispheric specific. During the instructional phase of the study, the three teachers working with the project discussed the solution strategies as being characteristic of the three processing styles. Statistical analyses failed to discern any significant differences between the mean scores on the five subtests calculated for the Pretest and the Posttest among the hemispheric preference groups, between treatment and control groups, or in gain scores between the treatment and the control groups. However, several interesting trends did emerge. First, on all subtest scores for both the Pretest and the Posttest, the female subjects exhibited slightly higher mean scores than the male subjects. The majority of the female subjects were identified as right-hemispheric while the majority of male subjects were identified as mixed-hemispheric. Second, on the evaluation of gain scores, the left-hemispheric subjects had lower mean scores than either the right- or mixed-hemispheric groups. Third, through the use of an analysis of covariance on the gain in problem-solving achievement scores between the Pretest and the Posttest, the control group had a slightly higher mean score on each of the five subtests than the treatment group. The results of the study leave many questions unanswered regarding the use of hemispheric preference knowledge as a meta- cognitive tool in solving nonroutine problems. Since the duration the project was so short (15 days), it is possible that replication of the study for a longer period of time might provide new insights into the role hemispheric preference in processing style plays in helping students learn to solve nonroutine mathematics problems.



Mathematics--Study and teaching (Elementary), Cerebral dominance, Problem solving