PERFORMANCE IN MATHEMATICAL PROBLEM SOLVING AS A FUNCTION OF COMPREHENSION AND ARITHMETIC SKILLS
Many factors influence a student’s performance in word (or textbook) problem solving in class. Among them is the comprehension process the pupils construct during their attempt to solve the problem. The comprehension process may include some less formal representations, based on pupils’ real-world knowledge, which support the construction of a ‘situation model’. In this study, we examine some factors related to the pupil or to the word problem itself, which may influence the comprehension process, and we assess the effects of the situation model on pupils’ problem solving performance. The sample is composed of 750 pupils of grade 6 elementary school. They were selected from 35 classes in 17 Francophone schools located in the province of Quebec, Canada. For this study, 3 arithmetic problems were developed. Each problem was written in 4 different versions, to allow the manipulation of the type of information included in the problem statement. Each pupil was asked to solve 3 problems of the same version and to complete a task that allowed us to evaluate the construction of a situation model. Our results show that pupils with weaker arithmetic skills construct different representations, based on the information presented in the problem. Also, pupils who give greater importance to situational information in a problem have greater success in solving the problem. The situation model influences pupils’ problem solving performance, but this influence depends on the type of information included in the problem statement, as well as on the arithmetic skills of each individual pupil.
Key wordsarithmetic comprehension mathematics problem solving teaching word problem
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