In mathematical word problem solving, a relatively well-established finding is that more errors are made on word problems in which the relational keyword is inconsistent instead of consistent with the required arithmetic operation. This study aimed at reducing this consistency effect. Children solved a set of compare word problems before and after receiving a verbal instruction focusing on the consistency effect (or a control verbal instruction). Additionally, we explored potential transfer of the verbal instruction to word problems containing other relational keywords (e.g., larger/smaller than) than those in the verbal instruction (e.g., more/less than). Results showed a significant pretest-to posttest reduction of the consistency effect (but also an unexpected decrement on marked consistent problems) after the experimental verbal instruction but not after the control verbal instruction. No significant effects were found regarding transfer. It is concluded that our verbal instruction was useful for reducing the consistency effect, but future research should address how this benefit can be maintained without hampering performance on marked consistent problems.

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Contemporary Educational Psychology
Department of Psychology

de Koning, B., Boonen, A.J.H., & van der Schoot, M. (2017). The consistency effect in word problem solving is effectively reduced through verbal instruction. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 49, 121–129. Retrieved from