European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 445–466 | Cite as

Teachers’ reflection on PISA items and why they are so hard for students in Serbia

  • Jelena Radišić
  • Aleksandar Baucal


The study explores how teachers perceive and go about students’ thinking in connection to particular mathematical content and how they frame the notion of applied mathematics in their own classrooms. Teachers’ narratives are built around two released PISA 2012 mathematics items, the ‘Drip rate’ and ‘Climbing Mount Fuji’ (will be referred to as the Fuji item). Teachers show concordance as to the reasons that could make either of the items difficult for students and are able to provide more examples justifying their reasoning for the ‘Fuji’ item. Suggestions linked to making the items more familiar to the students mostly relate to de-contextualization of the items’ content towards a more formal mathematical record. The teachers agree that students need only basic mathematical knowledge, at a level learned during elementary school, in order to solve these problems. Yet, at the same time, many teachers have difficulty clearly verbalising which procedures students are expected to follow to be able to solve the tasks. Disagreement among the teachers is noticeable when labelling the most difficult part(s) of each of the selected items. Mathematics teachers show openness for learning on how to create math problems we examined in this study, but question the purpose and meaning in incorporating more such problems in their own teaching.


Teachers’ narratives Mathematics Mathematics instruction PISA 


Funding Information

Study was partially funded by Ministarstvo Prosvete, Nauke i Tehnološkog Razvoja (grant number 179018).


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teacher Education and School Research, Faculty of Educational SciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

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