Research on solving mathematical word problems suggests that students may perform better on problems with a close to real-life representation of the problem situation than on word problems. In this study we pursued real-life representation by a mainly depictive representation of the problem situation, mostly by photographs. The prediction that students perform better on problems with a depictive representation of the problem situation than on comparable word problems was tested in a randomised controlled trial with 31,842 students, aged 10–20 years, from primary and secondary education. The conclusion was that students scored significantly higher on problems with a depictive representation of the problem situation, but with a very small effect size of Cohen's d = 0.09. The results of this research are likely to be relevant for evaluations of mathematics education where word problems are used to evaluate the mathematical capacity of students.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Contextual mathematical problems, Controlled randomised trial, Depictive, Descriptive, Numeracy
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2018.06.004, hdl.handle.net/1765/109050
Journal Studies in Educational Evaluation
Citation
Hoogland, K, de Koning, J, Bakker, A, Pepin, B, & Gravemeijer, K. (2018). Changing representation in contextual mathematical problems from descriptive to depictive: The effect on students’ performance. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 58, 122–131. doi:10.1016/j.stueduc.2018.06.004