, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 561–571 | Cite as

Fifth-grade students’ approaches to and beliefs of mathematics word problem solving: a large sample Hungarian study

  • Csaba CsíkosEmail author
  • Rita Kelemen
  • Lieven Verschaffel
Original Article


Mathematical word problems used in Verschaffel et al.’s (Learning and Instruction 7:339–359, 1994) study were applied in several follow-up studies. The goal of the present study was to replicate and extend the results of this line of research in a large sample of Hungarian students using an alternative set of data-gathering and data-analysis techniques. 4,037 students forming a nationwide representative sample of the Hungarian fifth-grade student population (aged 10–11) completed the test. The test contained five word problems from the list of 10 P(‘problematic)-items from Verschaffel et al.’s test. In contrast to all previous research in this domain, we used a multiple-choice format, where three options were given for each task: (a) routine-based, non-realistic answer, (b) numerical response that does take into account realistic considerations, (c) a realistic solution stating that the task cannot be solved. The hypotheses of this study were: (1) Students’ responses will confirm previous results, i.e. upper elementary school students prefer to respond to P-items by means of the routine-based answer; (2) Most students will demonstrate a more or less consistent preference for a given answer type (a, b or c) over problems; (3) Students’ school math marks will have low correlation indices with students’ achievement on these word problems. Our results confirm student’s overall tendency to follow non-realistic approaches when doing school word problem solving. The tendency even holds when confronting students with various kinds of realistic answers. Our results show that students demonstrate response patterns over problems, and that the correlation with math school performance is significant but small.


Word problems Beliefs Problem solving Elementary school Hungarian 

Mathematics Subject Classification (2000)

97C30 97C60 97C70 97B20 



The research presented in this paper was supported by the Hungarian National Science Fund (OTKA) projects 63360 and 81538 to the first author. Data collection took place in the framework of the Hungarian Educational Longitudinal Program (HELP) of the Research Group on the Development of Competencies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA-SZTE Képességkutató Csoport). This research was also partially supported by Grant GOA 2006/01 “Developing adaptive expertise in mathematics education” from the Research Fund K.U. Leuven, Belgium.


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Csaba Csíkos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rita Kelemen
    • 1
  • Lieven Verschaffel
    • 2
  1. 1.University of SzegedSzegedHungary
  2. 2.Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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