Toward an implementation model of mathematics word problem-solving for English language learners

Date of Completion

January 1999


Education, Mathematics|Education, Bilingual and Multicultural




Demographic transformations occurring in United States society result in increasing linguistically and culturally diverse populations (Howe, 1994; National Center for Education Statistics, 1992) and a need for effective and innovative teaching methodologies for English Language Learners (ELLs). This study addressed this need. Specifically, in the causal model specified within a framework of social constructivism (Atwater, 1996; Cobb, 1994), it was hypothesized that the use of student-created word problems would enhance ELLs' ability to: (1) solve word problems, (2) explain their problem-solving procedures, and (3) use problem-solving strategies. ^ The study sample consisted of 30 bilingual students enrolled in a major inner city school in the Northeast. The teacher/researcher randomly assigned fifteen ELL seventh-grade students to each of the experimental (student-created word problems) and control groups (a traditional textbook-driven curriculum). They received student-generated word problems teaching instruction during seven weeks. A posttest only control group design was used to test the three research hypotheses. Results were interpreted using three separate analyses of covariance (ANCOVA). The dependent variables were student scores in the Word Problem Achievement Test (WPAT), Problem Solving Strategies Questionnaire (PSSQ), and student interviews. The independent variable was teaching approach. The covariates were mathematics ability as measured by the Spanish Assessment of Basic Education (SABE) and English language proficiencies as measured by the Language Assessment Scales (LAS) test. ^ Results showed that the experimental group, having experienced the writing of word problems through the writing process, outscored (p < 0.05) the control group in word problem achievement and in the ability orally to express the understanding of word problems. No significant differences were found between the two groups regarding the different problem-solving strategies used while attempting to solve word problems. Implications are suggested for student-created word problems toward the improvement of ELLs overall mathematics performance. ^