# School Are Failing Mathematics Word Problems Tests Education Essay

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The problem which this study seeks to address is that 50% of fifth grade math students at XYZ School are failing mathematics word-problems tests.

Purpose

The study's purpose is to determine whether or not a specific solution strategy will lead to an improvement in the fifth graders' proficiency to solve math problems.

Description of the Community

As of the census of 2000, there were 223,510 persons, 86,068 households, and 56,804 families in the county. The population density was 283 persons per square mile (109/kmÂ²). There were where is the source citation?Where is the reference?95,437 housing units, at an average density of 121 per squareÂ mile (47/kmÂ²). The racial makeup of the county was 48.85% White, 48.58% Black or African American, 0.99% Asian, 0.25% Native American, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.35% from other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos, of any race, made up 1.19% of the population.

The total population was estimated to have grown by 61 persons from 2000 to 2006.

By 2005, 52.5% of the population was black, 44.0% was non-Hispanic white, 1.4% was Hispanic, 1.2% was Asian, 0.2% was Native American, and 0.9% of the population reported two or more races. This excludes those who reported "some other race" and "white", because the Census Bureau reclassified all who reported "some other race" as white (American FactFinder, 2010).

There were 86,068 households, 32.20% of which included children under the age of 18, 43.80% were married couples living together, 18.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.00% were non-families. Single-persons households were 29.50% of the total; 9.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46. The average family size was 3.06.

Persons younger than 18 were 25.80% of the population; those 18-24, 11.70%; 25-44, 29.80%; 45-64, 20.90%; and 65 and older, 11.80%. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 90.80 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 86.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was \$35,962, and the median income for a family was \$44,669. Males had a median income of \$32,018; females, \$24,921. The per capita income for the county was \$19,358. About 13.50% of families and 17.30% of the population.

The community belongs to the Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) system which is the third largest school system in Alabama. This is NOT in outline form

1. The MPS has undergone significant growth over the years.

## The schools throughout the MPS feature services for special students and gifted students.

Description of Work Setting

Writer's Role

## Chapter II: Study of the Problem

Problem Description

The problem being studied is that many fifth grade students at the target elementary school are struggling with math, particularly in solving word problems.

Many students fail quizzes in math.

## Problem Documentation

Many (32%) fifth graders fail to pass fifty percent 50% of their chapter exercises in mathematics.

Many (23%) fifth graders score below average in terms of general mathematics vocabulary.

Majority (53%) fifth graders fail their chapter problem solving tests in mathematics.

Majority (56%) of fifth graders evaluate their problem-solving skills negatively and have anxiety about solving word problems.

Literature Review

The review of literature indicated that mathematics vocabulary is a significant factor in a student's mathematics aptitude particularly in problem-solving.

## Causative Analysis

There are a number of causes which cause the deficiency among fifth graders to become efficient problem solvers.

Students' difficulty with solving word problems is because of the lack of mastery of the technical operations involved.

Students' difficulty with solving word problems in math lies in the difficulty understanding the words or the language behind the problem.

Learning mathematics does not simply involve having to apply its procedures and concepts. Rather it is "the all-around ability to communicate mathematically" (Riccomini & Witzel, 2009, p. 218).

Students' difficulty in solving math problems may be due to lack of proficiency in the English language.

Non-proficient English speakers who have been under formal education from their countries of origin generally do not find mathematical operations difficult but struggle when they face word problems presented in language that remains unmastered (Bernardo, 2005).

Learning math is a complicated for most ELLs because the words presented in the classroom have no equivalent in their native tongue and confusion may arise because of the lack of similar or comparable terms (Carirer, 2005).

Students may have an understanding of the words in the problem but are unable to connect the words to their own understanding.

Students find it hard to comprehend and be conscious of mathematical concepts because they could not relate it to real-life experiences (Coggins, Kravin, Coates, & Carroll, 2007).

Students are unable to effectively solve word problems because of the lack of confidence and sometimes fear overcomes them when they are unable to understand what they need to solve (Rossnan, 2006).

Providing opportunities for peer group work in math problem solving gives students, particularly ELLs the support and encouragement they need to face their fears in problem solving (Thompson et al., 2008).

References

Bernardo, A. I., (2005). Language and modeling word problems in mathematics among bilinguals. The Journal of Psychology, 139(5), 413-425.

Carrier, K. A. (2005). Key issues for teaching English language learners in academic classrooms. Middle School Journal, 37(2), 4

Coggins, D., Kravin, D., & Carroll, M. D. (2007). English language learners in the mathematics classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Boon, R. T., Fore, C. III, & Lowrie, K. (2007). Vocabulary Instruction for Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities: A Comparison of Two Instructional Models. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal 5(2), 49-73.

Brown, G. D. (2007). Mathematics vocabulary instruction for current non-proficient students with and without IEPs: A study of three methods of instruction. Retrieved from Proquest: http://gradworks.umi.com/

Foster, S. (2007). The day math and reading got hitched. Teaching Children Mathematics, 196-201.

Kersaint, G., Thompson, D. R., & Petkova (eds.) (2008). Teaching mathematics to English language learners. New York: Routledge.

Larson, C. (2007). The importance of vocabulary instruction in everyday mathematics. Action Research Project Report submitted to University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Marzano, R. J. (2005). Building background knowledge for academic achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Newman, J. R. (2006). "The vocabulary of mathematics." In J. R. Newman (ed). The world of mathematics Vol. 3 (pp. 1996-2009). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Pierce, M. & Fontaine, M. Designing vocabulary instruction in mathematics. The Reading Teacher, 53 (3), 239-243.

Riccomini. P. J. & Witzel, B. S. (2009). Response to intervention in Math. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Rossnan, S. (2006). Overcoming math anxiety. Mathitudes, 1 (1), 1-4.

Thompson, D. R., Kersaint, G., Richards, J. C., Hunsader, P. D., Rubenstein, R. N. (2008) Mathematical literacy: Helping students make meaning in the middle grades. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Chapter III: Outcomes and Analysis

Goals (Expectations)

Fifth graders, when taught special mathematics vocabulary instruction, will show year-to-year progress in math tests, assignments, report cards, and standardized mathematics tests.

Expected Outcomes (i.e., Measurable Objectives)

Several specific outcomes will be achieved by fifth graders who will benefit from mathematics vocabulary instruction.

Fifth graders' scores on chapter vocabulary inventories will be 20% higher because of introduced vocabulary instruction.

Fifth graders' general vocabulary test scores will be 20% higher because of introduced vocabulary instruction.

Fifth graders' scores on chapter problem-solving tests will be 20% higher because of introduced vocabulary instruction.

Fifth graders' attitudes on their problem-solving capabilities will be more positive after the introduction of vocabulary instruction.

Measurement of Outcomes

The following methods will be employed to measure the effectiveness of the mathematics vocabulary instruction.

Fifth graders from the experimental and control group will be given pre- and post- chapter vocabulary list when a new chapter in the math curriculum begins and their grades will be recorded by the teacher.

Fifth graders will be given a general vocabulary exercise at the start and at the end of this action research.

Fifth graders' scores on chapter tests will be recorded.

An attitudes survey (pre- and post- implementation) will be performed among students in order to evaluate any mark of improvement as far as students' perceptions of their capacity as problem solvers after the implementation.

Analysis of Results

Scores on the pre- and post- chapter vocabulary lists will be computed and compared using percentages and graphs.

Scores on general vocabulary exercises will be computed and compared to determine whether students from the experimental group outperform their counterparts from the control group in defining common and new mathematical terms.

Scores obtained by the two groups on chapter exercises will be computed and compared to determine whether or not the scores of the students in the experimental group are higher than those of the control group, implying a higher skill or improvement in problem solving abilities.

The perceptions of the students regarding their capacity in vocabulary and problem-solving will be gathered and described in order to compare whether there is a positive change in attitude in the experimental group as a result of the implemented intervention.

## Four separate z-tests (one for each of the objectives) will be used to compare pre- and post-implementation percentage data to see whether there is an increase at the .05 level of significance.

Chapter IV: Solution Strategy

Problem Statement

The problem being studied is that many fifth grade students at the target elementary school are struggling with math, particularly in solving word problems.

Discussion

Students struggling with mathematics particularly in problem solving will benefit from mathematics vocabulary instruction.

Students will be able to understand the language of the math problem and know exactly what the problem requires them to do (Pierce & Fontaine, 2008; Harmon, Hendrick & Wood, 2005).

Students will be able to connect the terms in the problem to their own concrete understanding and definition of the word (Nelson, 2006; Hyde, 2007).

ELL students will be able to comprehend mathematical terms crucial to problem solving despite not having mastered the English language through the use of simple and creative teaching strategies such as concept maps and other graphic organizers (Foster, 2007).

Strategies for teaching ELL learners in mathematics include the TESOL Sheltered Instruction which makes the math curriculum adaptive to suit the level of English proficiency of students (Slavit & Slavit, 2007; TESOL, 2006).

Particular strategies are recommended in mathematics vocabulary instruction.

## b. Graphic organizers become helpful. Graphic organizers are a technique in letting students organize the information they take in better (Kersaint, Rubilee, & Petkova, 2008). Organizing concepts through concept maps will facilitate students' understanding of how concepts are related with each other. They are also motivational materials that provide an alternative to the traditional note-taking that students usually do.

Students' success rates in mathematics are higher when they have positive attitudes about the subject and in their own competence to solve problems.

## Vocabulary instruction will use concept maps or other graphic organizers to review and clarify relationships of terms (Thompson et al., 2008).

Teachers will provide problem solving activities daily for practice (Pierce & Fontaine, 2008).

Teachers will develop pre- and post- vocabulary inventories for evaluation purposes.

This schedule will be followed:

The implementation of the selected curriculum will commence for a period of 8 weeks. Students belonging to the experimental group will receive 8 weeks of vocabulary instruction using the proposed curriculum.

Each group will receive daily instruction on mathematics computations and concepts from the teachers for one-half hour. Another half-hour will be spent on individual skills. Another half-hour will be spent on the experimental (vocabulary instruction) or control treatment.

The control group will receive drills on the mathematical operations or concepts presented per chapter using the basal module while the experimental group will receive mathematics vocabulary instruction using a) glossary building; b) concept maps; c) direct journaling; and d) pre- and post- vocabulary inventories.