Using Pictorial Maps to Scaffold Problem Solving in Primary-Grade Arithmetic

Massalin Sriutai, Surapon Boonlue, Jariya Neanchaleay, Elizabeth Murphy

Abstract


In this study, primary-grade students learned to solve and create arithmetic word problems using a three-phase process of visual representation. The study compared an experimental group (n=32) of third graders in Thailand using pictorial maps with a control group (n=31) using text-based problems. The visual representations called pictorial maps are unique in that they focus on place (location) in order to situate math problems in authentic contexts. In phase 1, students were given a pictorial map with imprinted objects representing keywords to help them solve a word problem. In phase 2, they used a blank pictorial map on which they could place plastic chips with imprinted images representing the problem’s keywords. In phase 3, they used a blank sheet with cut-outs of images representing keywords that they could use to represent their own word problems. Results revealed significantly higher post-test scores for the experimental group. Implications point to the value of mathematics’ teachers working with art teachers in their school to identify ways to use drawing to support representations of keywords and of other elements in word problems.

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