Teaching Elementary Mathematics through Problem Solving and Its Relationship to Mathematics Achievement

Audrey N Bullock, Tennessee State University


Problem solving in mathematics has been a goal for students for decades. In the reviewed literature, problem solving was most often treated as the dependent variable and was defined very broadly; however, few studies were found that included problem solving as a treatment or independent variable. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between teaching mathematics through problem solving and the mathematics achievement of elementary students. This study builds on the existing literature by using a nationwide sample to investigate the problem using structural equation modeling, which allows for complex relationships between multiple variables. The construct of teaching mathematics through problem solving was operationalized in this study by the variable categories of collaboration, discourse, and using nonroutine and contextual problems. Responses to survey questions from a nationwide sample of first, third, and fifth grade teachers served as the basis for measuring the extent to which teachers taught with a focus on problem solving in mathematics. The mathematics achievement of these teachers’ students was measured at four points between kindergarten and the end of fifth grade. Results of this study showed that the problem solving teacher practices had only slight impacts on the achievement of the students. Although the directions of the effects were mixed, more indicators of teaching mathematics through problem solving showed positive relationships with mathematics achievement than negative. Although discourse and collaboration variables were hypothesized to be highly correlated, only mild correlations were discovered. Future recommendations include repeating the study with the next round of available data to further test the proposed model as well as taking a closer look at discourse and collaboration patterns in individual classrooms.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Mathematics|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Audrey N Bullock, "Teaching Elementary Mathematics through Problem Solving and Its Relationship to Mathematics Achievement" (2017). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI10608148.