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Spiral learning is not a new model of learning, but it isn’t used as often as standard “mastery learning.” Some alternative charter and private schools have implemented the spiral learning method. It would be rare to see it used exclusively in traditional public school settings. Spiral learning is one method that is successful in different components of teaching math.
The Spiral Method
In its most basic explanation, spiral learning is just introducing a topic, touching on it for a short time and then moving on. The premise is that a subject isn’t learned the first time around and the student can pick up more information the second time. With each learning session, the student will expand on their skill level and build new understanding. The theoretical idea is that brief exposure to a topic, then revisiting it, allows students to construct their own understanding on a basic framework.
The Mastery Method
The mastery learning model is that students learn in a sequential way – they must master a topic before moving on to the next. The topic will not be “revisited” as in the spiral learning method. Mastery allows for learning fewer topics as so much time is spent on each one.
Sometimes a combination of the two methods is used. In math, for instance, although a math topic may be mastered, a spiral component is used in the next math class. This allows the students to be refreshed in the key concepts.