Has learning through doing repetitive exercises and mechanical non-creative exercises been researched and analysed sufficiently for College and University level courses? Have there been surveys and polls for High school and University Level students about whether they appreciate these repetitive and uninspiring exercises for learning and if it helps them? Have any College level students indicated Repetitive and uninspiring often mechanical learning is tedious or monotonous and doesn't really explain that much?

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    $\begingroup$ This question isn't very answerable in its current form. Do you really mean graduate education here? What age are students are you interested in? Can you give an example of what kinds of things they are learning by rote? $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 25 '14 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ "Rote learning" (to me) means "memorization through repetition." If memorization is the aim, sometimes learning by rote can help. But some aspects of mathematics require understanding. An example of rote learning might be noticing that students say "the limit goes to" and you correct them, repeatedly, by telling them "we say 'the limit is and not 'the limit goes to.'" But if students understand the concept of limit, they may understand that "the limit goes to" makes no sense, and stop using it. This aligns with mathematics as a sense-making activity rather than facts and procedures. $\endgroup$ – JPBurke Jul 25 '14 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ My comment above is meant to add to Chris', and demonstrate that there is a reason to consider what it is they are learning when you ask about rote learning. $\endgroup$ – JPBurke Jul 25 '14 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ As J P Burke says rote learning is good for memorizing but for understanding formulas or principles this requires more; so rote learning itself is not sufficient for higher learning' like University level. Yet many Math books I have seen have a lot of 'rote learning'-style exercises. A few books though have had the 'foresight' to include clever exercises were a student can figure out a principle seemingly on their own. Like that Moore Method of teaching I read about. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Jul 27 '14 at 4:01
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    $\begingroup$ I am not quite sure about what is being asked in the original question; I am also not sure how the checked response could answer anything "about rote learning" considering that it begins, verbatim, "Has it been studied? I don't know. Does it work? In my opinion, no." $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Oct 4 '14 at 5:56

Has it been studied? I don't know.

Does it work?

In my opinion, no. I have taught kids that came from asia where their math was done by rote. Their arithmetic skills were impressive, but when presented with a large number of new ideas they had trouble seeing how the pieces fit together, and were often at loose ends when faced with a new variation.

Is there a place for rote learning? Yes. Doing many problems. This helps build facility with algorithms.

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  • $\begingroup$ A great way to learn is trying to discover an important principle on ones own. Students could be given various clues about certain Lemmas and Theories that could be used to prove some important Theorem being 'sought' after ; the teacher could supply additional hints trying to get each student to 'discover' the Theory being 'chased'. Like a 'Treasure hunt' in Math. Is this like the Moore method? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 15 '14 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ In what is this answer rooted? The first four sentences ("Has it been studied? I don't know. Does it work? In my opinion, no.") do not inspire confidence... $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Oct 4 '14 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think there's room for improvement in this answer. For instance, by looking into whether any research has been done on the effectiveness of rote learning at tertiary level. $\endgroup$ – J W Oct 4 '14 at 10:17

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