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Mathematical Word Problem Solving of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Students with Typical Development

Bae, Young Seh

Mathematical Word Problem Solving of Students with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Students with Typical Development - Young Seh Bae - This study investigated mathematical word problem solving and the factors associated with the solution paths adopted by two groups of participants (N=40), students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and typically developing students in fourth and fifth grade, who were comparable on age and IQ (greater than 80). The factors examined in the study were: word problem solving accuracy; word reading/decoding; sentence comprehension; math vocabulary; arithmetic computation; everyday math knowledge; attitude toward math; identification of problem type schemas; and visual representation. Results indicated that the students with typical development significantly outperformed the students with ASDs on word problem solving and everyday math knowledge. Correlation analysis showed that word problem solving performance of the students with ASDs was significantly associated with sentence comprehension, math vocabulary, computation and everyday math knowledge, but that these relationships were strongest and most consistent in the students with ASDs. No significant associations were found between word problem solving and attitude toward math, identification of schema knowledge, or visual representation for either diagnostic group. Additional analyses suggested that everyday math knowledge may account for the differences in word problem solving performance between the two diagnostic groups. Furthermore, the students with ASDs had qualitatively and quantitatively weaker structure of everyday math knowledge compared to the typical students. The theoretical models of the linguistic approach and the schema approach offered some possible explanations for the word problem solving difficulties of the students with ASDs in light of the current findings. That is, if a student does not have an adequate level of everyday math knowledge about the situation described in the word problem, he or she may have difficulties in constructing a situation model as a basis for problem comprehension and solutions. It was suggested that the observed difficulties in math word problem solving may have been strongly associated with the quantity and quality of everyday math knowledge as well as difficulties with integrating specific math-related everyday knowledge with the global text of word problems. Implications for this study include a need to develop mathematics instructional approaches that can teach students to integrate and extend their everyday knowledge from real-life contexts into their math problem-solving process. Further research is needed to confirm the relationships found in this study, and to examine other areas that may affect the word problem solving processes of students with ASDs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Intellectual Disabilities-Autism
Thesis Advisors
Hickson, Linda
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2013