Project

Developing Methods for Increasing Students' Comprehension of Mathematical Word Problems and Problem Solving Skills

As teachers adjust to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, many mathematics educators have found themselves teaching new curricula that rely heavily on mathematical word problems. This change has greatly affected students’ confidence and comfort with mathematics. Many students struggle with comprehension of text-heavy problems and lack an effective method for solving. English Language Learners (ELLs) encounter additional barriers due to language demands in word problems and lack of connection to the curriculum. In order to support all students’ needs, mathematics teachers must scaffold the development of mathematical literacy and allow students to succeed in solving mathematical word problems. The curriculum used at any school differs, and there is a need for instructional tools that can be used concurrently with a teacher’s existing curriculum. The project sought to provide middle and high school teachers with instructional tools that would allow teachers to model, assess, and support students when solving mathematical word problems. The project incorporates two curriculum units and four instructional tools (Word Problem Warrior, Dictation Dictator, Reading Regulator, and Vocabulary Visionary), to be used alongside any middle or high school mathematics unit. The project includes elements of metacognition, think-alouds and process modeling, vocabulary development, and culturally responsive instruction. High school mathematics teachers piloted the instructional tools and curriculum. Based on the project, suggestions for future research are provided that would evaluate the effectiveness of the instructional tools on students’ mathematical word problem solving proficiency.

As teachers adjust to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, many mathematics educators have found themselves teaching new curricula that rely heavily on mathematical word problems. This change has greatly affected students’ confidence and comfort with mathematics. Many students struggle with comprehension of text-heavy problems and lack an effective method for solving. English Language Learners (ELLs) encounter additional barriers due to language demands in word problems and lack of connection to the curriculum. In order to support all students’ needs, mathematics teachers must scaffold the development of mathematical literacy and allow students to succeed in solving mathematical word problems. The curriculum used at any school differs, and there is a need for instructional tools that can be used concurrently with a teacher’s existing curriculum. The project sought to provide middle and high school teachers with instructional tools that would allow teachers to model, assess, and support students when solving mathematical word problems. The project incorporates two curriculum units and four instructional tools (Word Problem Warrior, Dictation Dictator, Reading Regulator, and Vocabulary Visionary), to be used alongside any middle or high school mathematics unit. The project includes elements of metacognition, think-alouds and process modeling, vocabulary development, and culturally responsive instruction. High school mathematics teachers piloted the instructional tools and curriculum. Based on the project, suggestions for future research are provided that would evaluate the effectiveness of the instructional tools on students’ mathematical word problem solving proficiency.

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