Helping pupils to solve word problems more realistically by changing the text or the illustration? In L. Verschaffel (chair), The use of external representations in word problem solving. Symposium conducted at the biennial meeting of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI)
Biennial meeting of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) edition:16 location:Limassol, Cyprus date:25-29 August, 2015
Studies have amply shown that elementary school pupils have a tendency to neglect their everyday life knowledge when solving school mathematical word problems (Verschaffel et al., 2000). Most evidence comes from studies that confronted pupils with words problems that are problematic from a realistic point of view (so-called P-items). Dewolf et al. (2014) tried to help pupils to solve such P-items more realistically by presenting these items together with illustrations that provide a global depiction of the problem situation. However, no effect of these illustrations was found. In the present study, 290 upper elementary school children received a test consisting of seven P-items. They were divided in four conditions, in order to investigate whether emphasising the realistic modelling complexity in the representational illustration (IL+TE-), in the problem text (IL-TE+) or in both (IL+TE+) could help pupils to solve P-items more realistically, as compared to providing no help (IL-TE-). The findings showed a significant positive effect of emphasizing the realistic modelling complexity in the problem text. There was, however, no effect of emphasising this complexity in the illustration or an interaction effect between both manipulations. Some possible explanations will be discussed.