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Csaba Csíkos: The difficulties of comprehending mathematical word problems in 10­-11-year-old

When focusing on simple arithmetic word problems that can be solved by using one basic operation, three milestones of theory development can be identified: (1) Kintsch and Greeno suggested a computational model that considers working memory constraints. Thus every arithmetic word problem can be solved in well-identified sequential steps, taking the limits of working memory into account. (2) In contrast to such sequential modeling, Mayer and Hegarty assumed ramifications and cycles in the reasoning process. They emphasised the importance of problem representation. (3) Several recent studies have revealed the 'overautomating' use of basic operational skills. According to Verschaffel, de Corte and Lasure (1994), Reusser and Stebler (1997) and many others' results, students fail to solve tasks that require (i) conscious decisions about the mean ingfulness and the solvability of the task, and (ii) transformation or further interpretation of the 'final result' coming from the completed operation(s). Since numerous studies have revealed that students' responses to so-called reallife or authentic mathematical word problems indicated a poor level of understanding the real-life situation, this investigation used 20 mathematical word problems from Verschaffel, de Corte and Lasure's (1994) work. The Hungarian version of this test contained the same 10 standard and 10 parallel tasks as the original test and was administered to 562 students aged 10­11 years. The results show that our students' achievement indicates the same level of understanding on the parallel tasks as it was revealed by former international findings reported by Verschaffel, Greer and de Corte (2000). In addition, the structure of the task battery and the connections between achievement and background variables are revealed by means of factor­analysis and correlation coefficients.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 103. Number 1. 35-55. (2003)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Csíkos Csaba, Szegedi Tudományegyetem, Neveléstudományi Tanszék. H­6722 Szeged, Petőfi S. sgt. 30­-34.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia