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Mathematical problem solving: Teaching open ended mathematics to fifth graders

1 May 1998


The purpose of this qualitative study was to answer the following central research question: What strategies does this fifth grade teacher use to promote problem solving skills among her students III mathematics? My research addressing this question was taken from a variety of sources on the subject of mathematical problem solving, with an emphasis on the most recent recommendations from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. This study took place at a suburban K-5 elementary school in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were a fifth graders and their teacher. Information was gathered through observations and interviews with students and their teacher. All students in this study, as well as their teacher,have pseudonyms to protect their privacy. During my observations of these students as they were engaged In mathematical problem solving, I noted a great deal of progress over a short period of time. Through expert question posing of their teacher, these students learned to set up and work through a variety of difficult problems. Through my interviews with students, however, I discovered that despite their growth and continued support from their teacher to focus on their progress, many of their feelings about themselves as problem solvers continued to depend on receiving a high score.


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