Iain Lempke


Spring 2020



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

James Brickwedde,

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Nell Hernandez


The research question addressed in this thesis was, how do students with varying levels of English proficiency respond to identified teaching strategies noted in the research literature that support them with developing a “problem-model approach” to solving mathematics word problems? It draws on the work of Hegarty et. al (1995) who defined the term “problem-model approach” as “trying to construct a mental model of the situation being described in the problem and plan their solution on the basis of this model”. It documents one teacher’s attempt to teach the Read-And-Think Math strategy as described by Nessel and Graham (2006) to seventh graders, many of whom were English Learners, who were learning from the CPM math curriculum, a Project-Based Learning (PBL) reform curriculum. Through this the teacher hoped to see the students adopt a problem-model approach to solving word problems, in further hopes that this approach would help them learn better in a PBL classroom. It utilized an Action Research methodology in which baseline data was gathered of the students’ initial problem solving approaches, achievement levels and attitudes towards solving word problems, then the intervention was taught and reinforced over ten weeks, with final data gathered and compared to the baseline data. After ten weeks, the teacher-researcher concluded that most students benefited from being taught Read-And-Think. Most students who did not already use a problem-model approach (most of whom were ELs) began using a problem-model approach more often and reported more positive feelings about solving word problems. Meanwhile, students who already favored a problem-model approach saw significant improvements in achievement and the sophistication of the mathematical tools they used while solving word problems. The only four students (out of twenty-one) who did not seem to benefit struggled to understand the meanings behind mathematical operations from the beginning, suggesting such students might benefit more from a more intensive intervention.


Effective Problem Solving Habits, English Learners, Problem-Based Learning Classroom








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