University of Oulu

Star, J. R., Tuomela, D., Joglar-Prieto, N., Hästö, P., Palkki, R., Abánades, M. Á., Pejlare, J., Jiang, R. H., Li, L., & Liu, R.-D. (2022). Exploring students’ procedural flexibility in three countries. International Journal of STEM Education, 9(1), 4.

Exploring students’ procedural flexibility in three countries

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Author: Star, Jon R.1; Tuomela, Dimitri2; Joglar-Prieto, Nuria3;
Organizations: 1Harvard Graduate School of Education, 442 Gutman Library, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA
2University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
4Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain
5Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
6Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-07-04


Background: In this cross-national study, Spanish, Finnish, and Swedish middle and high school students’ procedural flexibility was examined, with the specific intent of determining whether and how students’ equation-solving accuracy and flexibility varied by country, age, and/or academic track. The 791 student participants were asked to solve twelve linear equations, provide multiple strategies for each equation, and select the best strategy from among their own strategies.

Results: Our results indicate that knowledge and use of the standard algorithm for solving linear equations is quite widespread across students in all three countries, but that there exists substantial within-country variation as well as between-country variation in students’ reliance on standard vs. situationally appropriate strategies. In addition, we found correlations between equation-solving accuracy and students’ flexibility in all three countries but to different degrees.

Conclusions: Although it is increasingly recognized as an important construct of interest, there are many aspects of mathematical flexibility that are not well-understood. Particularly lacking in the literature on flexibility are studies that explore similarities and differences in students’ repertoire of strategies for solving algebra problems across countries with different educational systems and curricula. This study yielded important insights about flexibility and can push the field to explore the extent that within- and between-country differences in flexibility can be linked to differences in countries’ educational systems, teaching practices, and/or cultural norms around mathematics teaching and learning.

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Series: International journal of STEM education
ISSN: 2196-7822
ISSN-E: 2196-7822
ISSN-L: 2196-7822
Volume: 9
Issue: 1
Article number: 4
DOI: 10.1186/s40594-021-00322-y
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 111 Mathematics
516 Educational sciences
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