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Yeap, B. H., & Melati Abdul Ghani. (2001, December). Facilitating sense-making in primary mathematics through word problems. Paper presented at the AARE Conference, Fremantle, Australia.
This paper is based on the pilot study of an on-going research project that aimed to encourage children to engage in sense-making through mathematics word problems. About 400 Primary Three (Year Three) children in one school were involved in an instructional programme Think-Things-Through for six months. The two key characteristics of the programme were (1) children
engaging in ‘what-if’ problem posing to extend textbook problems, and (2) children being exposed to word problems that required contextual knowledge for successful solution. The research questions were (1) Were children more able to make-sense when they solved word problems at the end of the programme? (2) Were children able to transfer this ability to solve problems that were not similar to those used in the programmes? A pre-test and a post-test were administered. The tests comprised items in three categories: programme items (essentially the same as those used in the programme), near-transfer items (similar to those used in the programme but required children to extend their thinking) and far-transfer items (not included in the programme). The problems were paired such a standard problem was paired with a non-standard one. A standard problem could be solved by the direct use of a routine procedure. A non-standard one required some consideration of contextual factors for successful solution. The findings of
the pilot study indicated that children showed improvement in handling non-standard items that had been dealt with in the programme. The children were able to transfer this ability to a limited extend. Children were unable to solve non-standard items that were not discussed in the programme. The pilot study also provided clear indication that success in standard problems was no indication that children engaged in sense-making during problem solving.
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