University of Oulu

Kaitera, S., & Harmoinen, S. (2022). Developing mathematical problem-solving skills in primary school by using visual representations on heuristics. LUMAT: International Journal on Math, Science and Technology Education, 10(2), 111–146.

Developing mathematical problem-solving skills in primary school by using visual representations on heuristics

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Author: Kaitera, Susanna1; Harmoinen, Sari1
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: LUMA Centre Finland, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-03-17


Developing students’ skills in solving mathematical problems and supporting creative mathematical thinking have been important topics of Finnish National Core Curricula 2004 and 2014. To foster these skills, students should be provided with rich, meaningful problem-solving tasks already in primary school. Teachers have a crucial role in equipping students with a variety of tools for solving diverse mathematical problems. This can be challenging if the instruction is based solely on tasks presented in mathematics textbooks. The aim of this study was to map whether a teaching approach, which focuses on teaching general heuristics for mathematical problem-solving by providing visual tools called Problem-solving Keys, would improve students’ performance in tasks and skills in justifying their reasoning. To map students’ problem-solving skills and strategies, data from 25 fifth graders’ pre-tests and post-tests with non-routine mathematical tasks were analysed. The results indicate that the teaching approach, which emphasized finding different approaches to solve mathematical problems had the potential for improving students’ performance in a problem-solving test and skills, but also in explaining their thinking in tasks. The findings of this research suggest that teachers could support the development of problem-solving strategies by fostering classroom discussions and using for example a visual heuristics tool called Problem-solving Keys.

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Series: LUMAT. International journal on math, science and technology education
ISSN: 2323-7112
ISSN-E: 2323-7112
ISSN-L: 2323-7112
Volume: 10
Issue: 2
Pages: 111 - 146
DOI: 10.31129/lumat.10.2.1696
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Copyright information: © 2022 Susanna Kaitera, Sari Harmoinen. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.