Author Liu, Yueh Mei
Title Primary school students' academic mathematics achievement and problem solving abilities.
Institute Thesis (M.Ed.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2003
Supervisor Quigley, Martyn
Call no. QA14.S55 Liu
This exploratory study investigated the relationship between the academic mathematics achievement and problem solving abilities of primary school students. A review of relevant literature indicated that students tend to perform better in problems that require a more direct application of mathematics and that success in routine problems is not matched by success in non-routine problems. The findings of this study are consistent with the trend.

This study focused on (a) the relationship between students' academic mathematics achievement and problem solving abilities, (b) the differences in problem solving abilities among the students for each problem item, and (c) the problem solving characteristics evident from the problem test.

Three classes of Primary 5 children from a single school were involved. The sample consisted of 124 students. Five non-routine problem items were used to assess problem solving abilities and the Semestral Assessment 1 (SA1) results were used as a benchmark for the academic mathematics achievement.

This study found only a weak correlation between achievement in academic mathematics and success in solving problems. From this we can deduce that even if a student demonstrates good achievement in academic mathematics, the student may well not be very good at solving non-routine problems. Analysis of the solutions to the problems revealed that many students attempted to use the heuristics that they had been taught, but were unable to complete the solutions. This implies a gap between students' knowledge of the existence of the heuristics and their ability to carry out those heuristics in unfamiliar situations. The results also revealed some characteristics of the students, including a proficiency in using the "model" method, but a general weakness in mathematical communication.