Strategy Instruction That Primes the Problem Structure
Asha Jitendra, Professor, University of Minnesota and Amy Lein, Doctoral Student, University of Minnesota
Issue 22, Winter 2015
What Is Strategy Instruction That Primes The Problem Structure?
Strategy instruction that primes the problem structure is an instructional approach designed to facilitate students’ mathematical word problem solving performance. Many students, especially students with learning disabilities (LD), have difficulty with mathematical word problem solving, a complex skill that requires not only retrieving an answer from memory, but also comprehending the text, representing the nature of the problem correctly, planning a strategy, executing the plan, verifying the solution, and monitoring the problem solving processes (Agostino, Johnson, & Pascual-Leone, 2010). These students can benefit from instruction that makes explicit the “underlying structural connections between familiar and unfamiliar problems” (Gersten et al., 2009, p. 26). Typically, arithmetic problems are categorized as belonging to the additive (the solution operation is addition or subtraction) or multiplicative (the solution operation is multiplication or division) problem structure. Strategy instruction that primes the problem structure helps students move from focusing on the superficial features of a problem (e.g., format, vocabulary, irrelevant information) to understanding the problem type or structure and applying known solution methods. In sum, such instruction enables students to become effective strategy users by using representations to make visible the underlying problem structure (e.g., part-part- whole, rate/ratio).