Can working in collaborative groups motivate students to solve challenging word problems and decrease anxiety toward word problems?

The purpose of this study was to determine if the use of collaborative groups while teaching problem solving skills had any effect on students' motivation or anxiety toward word problems. Sixty-eight advanced sixth grade students in PreAlgebra classes in Southern California participated in the study. In one Pre-Algebra class, the experimental group, the students were taught problem solving skills in collaborative groups, while the control group was taught as individuals. After the three-week instruction period, both groups were given two word problem assessments and an anxiety survey. Bar graphs, t-tests, and chi-square tests were used to analyze the data gathered from the two assessments and the survey to determine if there were any differences in students' motivation or anxiety toward word problems between the two groups. The results indicated that there was not a statistically significant difference between the experimental and control groups in their motivation for word problems, but there was a difference in their perceived anxiety toward word problems. The first assessment showed that the experimental group had greater motivation toward solving challenging word problems but the second assessment showed that there was not a difference between the two groups. The data from the anxiety survey revealed less perceived anxiety in the experimental group than in the control group. Keywords: anxiety, collaborative groups, intrinsic motivation, mathematics, problem solving, sixth grade