Predicting development of mathematical word problem solving across the intermediate grades


This study addressed predictors of the development of word problem solving (WPS) across the intermediate grades. At beginning of 3rd grade, 4 cohorts of students (N = 261) were measured on computation, language, nonverbal reasoning skills, and attentive behavior and were assessed 4 times from beginning of 3rd through end of 5th grade on 2 measures of WPS at low and high levels of complexity. Language skills were related to initial performance at both levels of complexity and did not predict growth at either level. Computational skills had an effect on initial performance in low- but not high-complexity problems and did not predict growth at either level of complexity. Attentive behavior did not predict initial performance but did predict growth in low-complexity, whereas it predicted initial performance but not growth for high-complexity problems. Nonverbal reasoning predicted initial performance and growth for low-complexity WPS, but only growth for high-complexity WPS. This evidence suggests that although mathematical structure is fixed, different cognitive resources may act as limiting factors in WPS development when the WPS context is varied.



Mathematics, Elementary education, Word problems, Mathematics development, Growth


Copyright 2012 Journal of Educational Psychology. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Tolar, Tammy D., Lynn Fuchs, Paul T. Cirino, Douglas Fuchs, Carol L. Hamlett, and Jack M. Fletcher. "Predicting Development of Mathematical Word Problem Solving Across the Intermediate Grades." Journal of Educational Psychology 104, no. 4 (2012): 1083-1093. doi: 10.1037/a0029020. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author's permission.