Do Singapore pupils apply common sense knowledge in solving realistic mathematics problems?

Year: 1996

Author: Lee, Koay Phong, Yee, Foong Pui

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study examined the extent pupils in Singapore activated their common sense knowledge in solving mathematics word problems. The problem situations were familiar real world events such as inviting number of friends to a birthday party; estimating people's age, time for running a distance and distance between two locations; filling flask of diminishing cross-section; tying pieces of rope together and listing animal names over a period of time. The subjects were 304 Secondary One and Secondary Two pupils of eight neighbourhood schools studying in either the Normal Stream or the Express Stream. The analyses of the pupils' responses to the realistic word problems indicate that the majority of the pupils do not apply their common sense knowledge in solving these problems and their ability to apply their common sense knowledge in solving a problem depends on the problem situation. In addition, attainment in mathematics does not seem to be related to the ability to activate common sense knowledge while solving realistic word problems. Some practical implications of the finding will be discussed.