Seeing the Math in the Story: On How Abstraction Promotes Performance on Mathematical Word Problems

Dan Schley, K Fujita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The negative social, health, financial, and other life outcomes associated with mathematical proficiency deficits highlight the need to understand the underlying cognitive operations entailed in solving math problems. We focus specifically on mathematical word problems and propose that abstraction can enhance performance by helping people see beyond the incidental details described in word problems and to recognize instead the underlying mathematical relationships. Three studies manipulated abstraction as a procedural mind-set (i.e., inducing abstraction in one task and observing its carry-over effect in subsequent unrelated tasks) and observed performance on both numeric and word problems. Participants in the abstract, relative to concrete, mind-set condition were more successful in translating word problems into their analogous numeric forms, resulting in improved performance. We discuss implications of these findings for understanding individual and group differences in mathematics proficiencies, which may stem from both chronic and situational factors, and for the development of novel interventions. Seeing the Math in the Story: On How Abstraction Promotes Performance on Mathematical Word Problems. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274494508_Seeing_the_Math_in_the_Story_On_How_Abstraction_Promotes_Performance_on_Mathematical_Word_Problems [accessed Dec 21, 2015].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-961
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume5
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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