In 1966 he coined the term mathemagenic for behaviors that lead to learning, one of the first theories of learning that focused on internal processes. His ideas were based on his observation that what students learned from instruction is a transformed version of the knowledge their instructor intended to impart, we he thought required more than just the stimulus-response model of behaviorism.
He and his wife Carol had three children.
- Shaughnessy, Michael (2005). "An Interview with Ernst Rothkopf: Reflections on Educational Psychology". North American Journal of Psychology 7 (1).
- Dills, Charles; Romiszowski, Alexander, eds. (1997). Instructional Development Paradigms. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications. p. 258. ISBN 0-87778-294-6.