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.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2018.06.004, hdl.handle.net/1765/109050
Studies in Educational Evaluation
Erasmus University Rotterdam

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