Effects of Problem Context on Strategy Use within Functional Thinking


The effect of problem format on problem solving strategy selection is investigated within the early algebra domain of functional thinking. Functional Thinking is a type of algebraic reasoning appropriate for elementary students, in which a relationship exists between two sets of values. Three function table problems were given to students in grades two through six (N=232) in three different problem contexts. Problem context affected student strategy selection. Presenting the problem with non-indexical X values elicited the most correct strategy use, whereas the format with indexical X values elicited the most naïve and incorrect strategy use. Presenting the problem in a story context did not help correct strategy selection, but it decreased incorrect strategy use. Findings highlight factors influencing strategy selection, and have implication for instructional design and problem solving.

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