Making Sense of Word Problems

Making Sense of Word Problems

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Word problems have been a staple of mathematics instruction for centuries, yet the rationale for their use has remained largely unexamined. A range of findings have shown how students consistently answer them in ways that fail to take account of the reality of the situations described. This monograph reports on studies carried out to investigate this qsuspension of sense-makingq in answering word problems. In Part One, a wide range of examples documenting the strength of the phenomenon is reviewed. Initial surprise at the findings was replaced by a conviction that the explanation lies in the culture of the mathematics classroom, specifically the rules implicitly governing the nature and interpretation of the word problem genre. This theoretical shift is reflected in Part Two. A detailed analysis of the way in which word problems are currently taught in typical mathematical classrooms is followed by reviews of design experiments illustrating how, by immersing students in a fundamentally changed learning environment, they can acquire what the authors consider to be more appropriate conceptions about, and strategies for doing, word problems. Part Three turns to a wider discussion of theoretical issues, a further analysis of the features of the educational system considered responsible for outcomes detrimental to many students' understanding and conception of mathematics, and suggestions for rethinking the role of word problems within the curriculum.As indicated earlier, the central theme of this book is that word problems should be problematised. ... Secondly, in challenging the predominant way in which they are used currently in mathematics classrooms as routine ... For example, the problem of proving Fermata#39;s Last Theorem (that xn + yn = zn has no solutions with x, y, z, n all positive integers for n agt; 2) is ... the path taken by a projectile is aquot; appliedaquot; in the sense that it deals, albeit in idealised form, with the physics of the real world.

Title:Making Sense of Word Problems
Author: Eric de Corte, Brian Greer, Lieven Verschaffel
Publisher:CRC Press - 2000-01-01

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