Word problem solving and pictorial representations: insights from an exploratory study in kindergarten
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The aim of this study was to investigate how pictorial representations with different semiotic characteristics affect additive word problem solving by kindergartners. The focus of the study is on three categories of additive problems (change problems, combine problems and equalize problems) and on representational pictures with different semiotic characteristics: (a) pictures in which the problem quantities are represented in pictorial form, that is, as groups of illustrated objects (PP pictures), (b) pictures in which the quantities are represented partly in pictorial form and in symbolic form (PS pictures), and (c) pictures in which the quantities are represented in symbolic form (SS pictures). Data were collected from 63 kindergartners using a paper-and-pencil test. Results showed that the semiotic characteristics of representational pictures had a strong and significant effect on performance. Children’s performance was higher in the problems with PP pictures but declined in the problems with PS and SS pictures. However, the differences in children’s performance across the problems with different representational format varied between the problem categories and their mathematical structures. The semiotic characteristics of representational pictures had an important role in the establishment of close relations between children’s solutions in problems in different categories. Detailed analysis of children’s answers to the problems revealed a number of picture-related difficulties. Findings are discussed and directions for future research are drawn considering the methodological limitations of the study.
KeywordsWord problems Representational pictures Kindergartners Addition Subtraction
The study reported in this paper was supported by the University of Cyprus (start-up funding).
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