The Complexity of Engaging Third Graders with Word Problems

© Savanna Hoffman

Savanna Hoffman, an undergraduate researcher and undergraduate research fellow at Salisbury University, presented her research project, The Complexity of Engaging Third Graders with Word Problems, at the 2019 CUR Research Experiences for Undergraduates Symposium (REUS). Savanna shared how taking part in research with the PATHWAYS program inspired her project.

My name is Savanna Hoffman and I attend Salisbury University, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the city of Salisbury. I currently hold my associate’s degree in early childhood education and am pursuing my bachelor’s degree at the moment for early childhood education as well.

Taking part in Preparing Aspiring Teachers to Hypothesize Ways to Assist Young Students (PATHWAYS) which was designated as A Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was such a beneficial experience for me. I researched the topic of word problems amongst third grade students. My mission was to help the group of students increase their comprehension and overall behavior regarding word problems. Alongside my partner, we started each week with a designated lesson plan that was tailored to our specific students needs. After meeting with our students once a week to follow through with our lesson plans, we would collect data through videos that we would take during the class session and through analyzing and transcribing data.

Learning techniques such as transcribing and video recording lessons may add more work on educators, however the it greatly benefits students in a positive way. By looking back at our videos and transcripts, each week we were able to tailor lessons to find what students struggled with and what we as student researchers and future educators could do to make this process easier and less draining for students. In conclusion, we found that language arts and reading comprehension come alongside mathematics in many ways. If a child struggles in one subject they are very likely to struggle in the other. Having children truly comprehend why we learn word problems and what the motive is behind them is what will truly step our game up as educators as this topic that children have a learned behavior of dreading is such a vital piece of their educational journey.

Overall, this research project has given me many opportunities that I would not have had the chance to pursue. By learning new techniques and ideas to contribute in the classroom, I have the opportunity to positively impact my future students. I have gained knowledge on new methods to help students learn using word problems, as well as make it an enjoyable learning experience. The funding through NSF REU positively impacted me as a future educator. Education based research seems to be an overlooked topic at times, so having funding opportunities for educational research has the potential to positively affect students. The research I had the opportunity to pursue was a beneficial experience that I will carry with me the rest of my career.

Text courtesy of Savanna Hoffman.


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