Children’s Difficulties with Mathematical Word Problems.

Children's Difficulties with Mathematical Word Problems.Children’s Difficulties with Mathematical Word Problems.

Sara Gooding

University of Cambridge, UK

This article reports a study of the difficulties that primary school children experience whilst tackling school mathematical word-problems. A case study of four Year 5 children was conducted; this involved interviews which probed the children’s views of their own difficulties and discussions with the children as they tackled word problems. The data were qualitatively analysed using a thematic analysis approach based on categories of difficulty identified from existing literature. Examples of transcripts and responses which show the children experiencing difficulties are included, as well as the children’s opinions on their difficulties. My interpretation of these findings, including proposed subcategories of difficulty, is also given. The report concludes with suggestions of methods – subject to further research – that teachers may use to help children overcome their difficulties with school mathematical word problems.

Background

Children’s poor performance with mathematical word problems is a trend that I became aware of very early on in my teaching career and one that an interest has been taken in by many who are involved in Mathematics education.
By looking at the existing literature on children’s difficulties with mathematical word problems, I was able to gain a more detailed insight into the causes of children’s difficulties. Using the evidence from existing research, I formulated five categories of difficulties that children may experience whilst tackling mathematical word problems. These categories are presented below.

Sara Gooding

University of Cambridge, UK

This article reports a study of the difficulties that primary school children experience whilst tackling school mathematical word-problems. A case study of four Year 5 children was conducted; this involved interviews which probed the children’s views of their own difficulties and discussions with the children as they tackled word problems. The data were qualitatively analysed using a thematic analysis approach based on categories of difficulty identified from existing literature. Examples of transcripts and responses which show the children experiencing difficulties are included, as well as the children’s opinions on their difficulties. My interpretation of these findings, including proposed subcategories of difficulty, is also given. The report concludes with suggestions of methods – subject to further research – that teachers may use to help children overcome their difficulties with school mathematical word problems.

Background

Children’s poor performance with mathematical word problems is a trend that I became aware of very early on in my teaching career and one that an interest has been taken in by many who are involved in Mathematics education.
By looking at the existing literature on children’s difficulties with mathematical word problems, I was able to gain a more detailed insight into the causes of children’s difficulties. Using the evidence from existing research, I formulated five categories of difficulties that children may experience whilst tackling mathematical word problems. These categories are presented below.

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