Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Human Sciences and Education

Document Type




Students have had difficulties with mathematical word problems since they were introduced in their early elementary grades. Elementary teachers have dealt with student difficulties in solving mathematical word problems. In addition, elementary teachers are always implementing and searching for research-based strategies to remediate the deficits in solving mathematical word problems. Year after year across the United States, local education agencies implement math and reading curriculums to support students learning in mathematical word problem solving with reading comprehension, but students are still not able to describe their difficulties when they are given mathematical word problems to solve with all the support in place. In addition, it is evident that students are having difficulties just not having problems solving word problems, but other factors play a part in why students are unable to solve mathematical word problems at an accurate rate. Most errors seem to originate from people's failure to understand the language of word problems, for example, the “linguistic embedding of the calculation problem (Schumacher and Fuchs, 2012), and arithmetic computation errors alone” (Raduan, 2010; Kingsdorf and Krawec, 2014). This case study sought answers to what fourth-grade elementary math students describe as their difficulties for solving mathematical word problems through interviews; through observation of what fourth-grade elementary math students say and do when solving mathematical word problems; and what difficulties are fourth-grade teachers describing and what strategies they are implementing to remediate student difficulties when solving mathematical word problems through interviews.

The study included ten elementary fourth grade students and five teachers from an urban public charter school in the Southern United States. Data collection included audio recorded semi-structured interviews, observations of students solving mathematical word problems, student work, a record of oral readings, and field notes. Codes and themes were generated from student work and student interviews. Error analysis was utilized to see if the students made more procedural or conceptual errors when solving mathematical word problems. The findings indicated students showed evidence of both procedural and conceptual errors, for example, misuse of teacher-directed strategies in mathematical operations. Data from student interviews revealed particular difficulties with procedural comprehension.



Committee Chair

Skinner, Kim



Available for download on Thursday, January 09, 2025