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Mathematics word problems illustrated: An analysis of Flemish mathematics textbooks

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

In the mathematics class, elementary school pupils are confronted a lot with mathematical word problems. In their mathematical textbooks, these word problems are often accompanied with illustrations. In the present study, we systematically investigated, for three different elementary grades, the occurrence of illustrations next to mathematical word problems in four commonly used mathematics textbooks in Flanders. Apart from their occurrence, we also investigated their function and nature. The study first of all showed that the majority of the word problems in the textbooks were accompanied with illustrations, and that there was a significant difference between textbooks, and an interaction between grade and textbook. Second, half of all the illustrations were essential to solve the word problems, but there were considerable differences between grades as well as textbooks. Third, half of the illustrations were representations of a single element mentioned in the problem or the whole problem situation, whereas the other half represented the problem’s mathematical structure. These percentages also differed between grades and textbooks. In the conclusion of this article, we discuss these findings and raise several questions for future research concerning the use of illustrations in mathematics textbooks by textbook makers and by the teachers in the mathematics class.
Journal: Mediterranean Journal for Research in Mathematics Education
ISSN: 1450-1104
Volume: 14
Pages: 17 - 42
Publication year:2015