Original Research

Accelerating mathematics word problem-solving performance and efficacy with think-aloud strategies

Piia M. Björn, Aino Äikäs, Airi Hakkarainen, Minna Kyttälä, Lynn S. Fuchs
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 9, No 1 | a716 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v9i1.716 | © 2019 Piia M. Björn, Aino Äikäs, Airi Hakkarainen, Minna Kyttälä, Lynn S. FuchsG | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 November 2018 | Published: 16 October 2019

About the author(s)

Piia M. Björn, School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
Aino Äikäs, Department of Special Education, School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
Airi Hakkarainen, School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
Minna Kyttälä, Department of Education, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Lynn S. Fuchs, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, Nashville, United States


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Abstract

Background: The previous body of research literature has reported several separate cognitive processes relevant in solving mathematics wps. Therefore, it is of the essence to seek for effective intervention and instruction for students in need for support in learning.

Aim: This article reports the outcome of an intervention targeted at mathematics word problem (wp) skills.

Setting: This study included three data collection points: (1) Premeasurements, (2) post-measurements and (3) follow-up measurements. Pre-measurements were performed in August, post-measurements immediately after the intervention period in October and follow-up measurements in December.

Methods: A programme, which included face-to-face support in mathematics wp strategies with the think-aloud protocol, was applied. The participants were 28 Finnish third-graders (14 training group students and 14 control students). Their mathematics wp skills were tested three times (pre-, post- and follow-up assessments). The groups were matched by gender, family type and the mathematics wp pre-measurement score level. The groups differed neither by literacy skills (i.e. technical reading, reading comprehension) nor by task orientation at baseline.

Results: Some acceleration of mathematics wp skills among the training group students was found but the growth dramatically declined as soon as the face-to-face support stopped. The results further showed improvement in the efficacy of correct answers or attempted mathematics wp items among training group students.

Conclusion: The results suggested that training consisting of face-to-face support is crucial for accelerating mathematics wp strategies among students struggling with mathematics. Repeated, cyclic periods of support are suggested for sustained effect.


Keywords

third-graders; mathematics word problem-solving; efficacy; think-aloud protocol; intervention

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