Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

David Shellman

Abstract

This dissertation was designed to investigate the potential significance of several student algebraic word problem solving skills. The solution of an algebra word problem (AWP) requires the creation and solution of an equation based on the problem context. Common Core State Standards in both English Language Arts and Mathematics emphasize student learning and proficiency in algebra word problem contexts. Eight factors of student mathematical ability were proposed, and three of those eight factors were studied in depth to determine their significance. Similar research supported the theory that the translation phase of the solution process presented the student with the most significant difficulty, as the natural language of the problem statement was changed into mathematical symbolism and equations. The findings of the current research suggested that additional cognitive tasks and abilities were required to obtain successful solutions to AWP, in addition to mere translation.

Students enrolled in Algebra I, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus courses in public secondary schools were surveyed about their previous and current experiences in solving AWP and were given a battery of assessments to determine individual performance levels in solving AWP. Data on perceived difficulties in AWP solution, as mentioned by students on mathematical learning style surveys and on the battery of assessments for actual AWP solution performance, were collected. Measures of association and correlation were calculated and ANOVA analyses were conducted.

Statistically significant rank-order correlations were found in comparisons of participant performance in a) ability to identify algebraic operations, b) ability to recognize relational statements, and c) ability to translate text into equations when compared with correctly solved AWP scores. Statistically significant differences in mean number of correctly solved AWP were found between grade levels 9, 10, and 11 and also between the following courses: Algebra I, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus. No statistically significant differences were found in comparison of participant gender groups and no statistically significant differences were found in comparison of participant ethnicity groups. Criteria for identification of a participant as a proficient AWP solver were developed. Participant mathematical learning style characteristics were investigated to determine influential factors in measured AWP solution ability.