In traditional schooling, time is a constant and understanding is a variable, The New York Times reports. A fifth-grade class will spend a set number of days on prime factorization and then move on to study greatest common factors — whether or not every student is ready. But there is another way to look at schooling — through the lens of a method called “mastery learning,” in which the student’s understanding of a subject is a constant and time is a variable; when each fifth grader masters prime factorization, for instance, he moves on to greatest common factors, each at...

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