Ngu, B., Chung, S. & Yeung, S. (2015). Cognitive load in algebra : Element interactivity in solving equations. Educational Psychology: an international journal of experimental educational psychology,35(3), 271-293. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2013.878019
Central to equation solving is the maintenance of equivalence on both sides of the equation. However, when the process involves an interaction of multiple elements, solving an equation can impose a high cognitive load. The balance method requires operations on both sides of the equation, whereas the inverse method involves operations on one side only. In an experiment, middle school students (N = 71) were randomly assigned to the balance and inverse methods to complete a pre-test, an acquisition phase and a post-test. Pre-test and post-test comparisons found that the inverse group outperformed the balance group for those equations that involved high element interactivity. Instructional efficiency measures further confirmed that the balance method imposed higher cognitive load. The inverse method was capable of reducing cognitive load due to the interacting elements.
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