By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Children often ask “why?” and “how?” when confronted by something new, and a panel at the annual Association for Psychological Science discussed how students’ questions can best be used for learning.

Many times students can recite facts, but don’t understand underlying concepts. In explaining 2×3=6, the answer shouldn’t just be memorized, but kids should be able to see the relationship between multiplication and addition.

Christine Legare, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin set a complex toy made of interlocking gears, a crank and a propeller before 96 children. With half she asked for an explanation; with the other she said, ’Look, isn’t this interesting.”

Children asked to observe only noticed the colors. Those asked to explain focused on the chain of gears working together and turned the propeller. They were better at re-creating it and transferring it to other tasks.

Read more in Education Week, about helping kids understand concepts.

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