Difficulties in solving algebra story problems with secondary pupils

Christou, Konstantinos (2001) Difficulties in solving algebra story problems with secondary pupils. MSc(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate students capability in applying mathematics in real life. In order to do this it was decided to explore students' performance in representing algebra story problems. This research investigates the reasons for the difficulties facing the majority of students in representing algebra story problems. The research took place in a town called Trikala in Greece and a sample of 90 high school students aged between 15-17 years from a private support school was used. Two cognitive factors believed to have an important influence on pupil's performance in representing word problems were measured, namely: working memory space capacity and field-dependence/independence. To determine the working memory space capacity of the students, the Digit Backwards Test (D.B.T.) was used and, to measure the degree of field-dependence/independence of the pupils, the Hidden Figure Test (H.F.T) was used. In order to determine students' attitudes towards mathematics, a questionnaire was designed which tested factors like motivation, self confidence, influence from the close environment and students' preferences for disciplines of the curriculum. In order to test students capability in representing algebra story problems and the role that working memory space (X-space) and field-dependence/independence have in success in this task, a mathematics test was designed. The test included 10 'compare' algebra story problems taken from the literature or produced for the sake of this project. The students were asked to write down the equation that represents the given statement. The information processing model and other approaches to the difficulties students have with these problems were applied to design this mathematics test and also to put the problems onto a scale according to the difficulty (Z-demand) they placed on the pupils working memory capacity. It was concluded that working memory space and field-dependence/independence were significant predictors for problem representation success. Thus, high working memory space capacity students performed better in the mathematics test than their intermediate or low working memory space capacity counterparts. Failure occurred in the mathematics test when the Z-demand was quite close to the pupil's measured working memory capacity as a possible result of overloading of the working memory space. Students' performance in the test improved as the pupils went from being field-dependent to field- independent. Students' attitudes towards mathematics influences achievement in the mathematics test. Motivation, self confidence, father's level of education, are positively correlated factors to students' achievement. Pupils who have a middle preference between mathematics and language classes had the best performance. Knowledge of language is a significant predictor for success in representing algebra story problems.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Advisers: Norman Reid; Alex Johnstone
Keywords: Mathematics education
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-72310
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:12
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 15:12
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72310

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