Why assimilation and accommodation come before understanding
Usually, when children experience new ideas, events or information that fit with their current understanding, they add it to what they already know. This is called assimilation.
But there’s more. When children come across new ideas that bump up against their prior knowledge, they have to accommodate these ideas by modifying existing schema or forming a completely new one.
For example, a learner might understand multiplication by ten as adding a zero: 24 × 10 = 240. This method works for whole numbers, but what about when they learn about decimals? Assimilating their knowledge leads to a misconception: 2.4 × 10 = 2.40 so a learner will have to adjust their thinking.
Landing between assimilation and accommodation can be an uncomfortable place. Children may experience a sense of ‘disequilibrium’ — unsure of where to place this new knowledge or how to use it.