Learning From Examples Versus Verbal Directions in Mathematical Problem Solving

Hee Seung Lee, Jon M. Fincham, John R. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This event-related fMRI study investigated the differences between learning from examples and learning from verbal directions in mathematical problem solving and how these instruction types affect the activity of relevant brain regions during instruction and solution periods within problem-solving trials. We identified distinct neural signatures during the instruction period of trials. While studying examples, greater activation was found in the prefrontal and parietal regions that were known to be involved in mathematical problem solving. In contrast, while studying verbal directions, increased activation was found in motor and visual regions. These differences, however, disappeared during the solution period. During the solution period, participants showed brain activation patterns like those they displayed while studying an example, regardless of which instruction they learned from. The results suggest instruction type becomes irrelevant after students get to an understanding. Educational implications were discussed with regard to example-based instruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-245
Number of pages14
JournalMind, Brain, and Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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