Manu Kapur, researcher at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, conducted an experiment in which groups of students were taught to solve new math problems using two different methods. The first group was taught the traditional way: the teacher introduced the concept, showed students how to solve a problem, and then allowed them to practice. The second group was given the problems to solve on their own first with no introduction or demonstration of how to solve the problems until after they’d made several attempts to work it out on their own.
The results were striking: Both groups of students ultimately learned how to solve the problems. But the second group, who were given a chance to try on their own first, showed a “significantly greater conceptual understanding” of the subject and were able to transfer what they’d learned to novel problems better than the first group.