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Journal of Educational Psychology Copyright 1988 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.

1988, Vol. 80, No. 2, 192-201 0022-066 3/88/SOO.75

Teaching Children to Use Schematic Drawings to Solve Addition and

Subtraction Word Problems
Gordon B. Willis and Karen C. Fuson
School of Education and Social Policy
Northwestern University

Two classes of second graders of average and above-average mathematics ability were taught to
use differing schematic drawings to represent differing categories of addition and subtraction
word problems. Children entered the three-digit numbers used in the problems into the schematic
drawings and then were to use the drawings to facilitate the choice of the solution procedure.
The children were able to make the correct drawing for a given category, usually inserted the
numbers from the problem into a schematic drawing correctly, and usually selected the correct
solution strategy for the problem. There was little support for the hypotheses that children use a
single part-part-whole schema to solve either all categories of problems or the more difficult
"Change" problems. The most difficult problems were those in which the underlying semantic
subtractive problem category ("Change-Get-Less" and "Compare") conflicted with the addition
solution strategy required to solve the problem. The good-to-excellent posttest performance on
most of the possible kinds of addition and subtraction word problems indicates that most of
these problems are within the zone of proximal development of second graders of average and
above-average mathematics ability. Thus American textbooks can include many of the more
difficult word problems, as do textbooks in the Soviet Union.

Solving addition and subtraction word problems involves reflect on that problem representation and modify it in some
at least three aspects: representing the word problem situation, way in order to select a solution strategy (Briars & Larkin,
selecting a solution strategy, and using the solution strategy 1984; Riley et al, 1983). A teaching method that helps
to find the answer. Initially, children solve word problems by children to represent the problem situation would be more
representing the problem with concrete objects and then using helpful than the prevalent solution sentence method.
these objects to carry out the solution strategy (Briars & In developing and testing such a method, we decided to
Larkin, 1984; Carpenter & Moser, 1984; Fuson, 1988; Riley, focus initially on the upper end of problem solving—that
Greeno, & Heller, 1983). Later, children solve problems by involving more difficult types of problems and multidigit
using more sophisticated counting strategies that also are numbers—because the need for representational support
directly derived from the representation of the problem situ- seems to be most crucial here: The more difficult problems
ation (Carpenter & Moser, 1984; Fuson, 1988). Finally, chil- require reflection on the representation, and the large num-
dren solve problems by choosing an arithmetic operation bers require a separate selection of the solution strategy. The
(addition or subtraction) and then using some particular teaching approach that we chose was to teach children to
method of adding or subtracting such as thinking strategies, represent word problems by making a schematic drawing that
known facts, or the multidigit addition or subtraction algo- models the semantic features of the problem situation; the
rithms (Carpenter & Moser, 1984; Fuson, 1988). Thus the numbers in the problem can then be written in this schematic
first two aspects of problem solving may be merged for small drawing and the drawing used to decide whether to add or
numbers or simple types of problems, but they are separate subtract to find the missing problem element.
for large numbers because these require the choice of an Understanding the schematic drawings used requires un-
algorithm. derstanding the different types of addition and subtraction
The most common method of teaching addition and sub- word problem situations. These are commonly divided into
traction word problems ignores children's need to represent four major categories (see Table 1). Two of these are basically
the problem situation and instead focuses only on the solution additive. In the Change-Get-More category, some initial
strategy: Children are taught to write a solution addition or quantity gets some more added to it; in the Put-Together
subtraction sentence (e.g., 8 + 5 = ? or 8 - 5 = ?) for a category, two separate quantities are put together to form one
problem and then are to write the answer for the sentence. combined quantity. The other two categories are basically
The disadvantage of this approach is particularly strong for subtractive. In the Change-Get-Less category, there is a quan-
the more complex kinds of word problems, for these require tity from which some quantity is taken; in the Compare
not only that children represent a problem but also that they category, two quantities are compared in order to find out
how much greater one quantity is than another. A fifth
This research was supported by a grant from the Amoco Founda- category, Equalize, is identified by some researchers; these
tion to the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. problems are Compare problems that explicitly mention a
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to change needed to make the two original quantities equivalent.
Karen C. Fuson, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern Very little research has been done on this category, so we did
University, Evanston, Illinois 60208. not use it in this study. The names of the problem types in

Table 1
Classification of Word Problems
Addition situations Subtraction situations
Change-Get-More Change-Get-Less
Missing end Missing end
Joe had 3 marbles. Joe had 8 marbles.
Then Tom gave him 5 more marbles. Then he gave 5 marbles to Tom.
How many marbles does Joe have now? How many marbles does Joe have now?
Missing change0 Missing change
Joe had 3 marbles. Joe had 8 marbles.
Then Tom gave him some more marbles. Then he gave some marbles to Tom.
Now Joe has 8 marbles. Now Joe has 3 marbles.
How many marbles did Tom give him? How many marbles did he give to Tom?
Missing start3 Missing start*
Joe had some marbles. Joe had some marbles.
Then Tom gave him 5 more marbles. Then he gave 5 marbles to Tom.
How many marbles did Joe have in the beginning? Now Joe has 3 marbles.
How many marbles did Joe have in the beginning?
Put-Together Compare
Missing all Missing difference
Joe has 3 marbles. Joe has 8 marbles.
Tom has 5 marbles. Tom has 5 marbles.
How many marbles do they have altogether? How many more marbles does Joe have than Tom?
Missing first part Missing big3
Joe and Tom have 8 marbles altogether. Joe has 3 marbles.
Tom has 3 marbles. Tom has 5 more marbles than Joe.
How many marbles does Joe have? How many marbles does Tom have?
Missing second part Missing small
Joe and Tom have 8 marbles altogether. Joe has 8 marbles.
Joe has 3 marbles. He has 5 more marbles than Tom.
How many marbles does Tom have? How many marbles does Tom have?
Note. These examples are adopted from Riley, Greeno, and Heller's (1983) example problems. Compare problems can also be asked with the
words "less" and "fewer" rather than "more," and with Equalize questions containing either "less"/"fewer" or "more" (e.g., "How many more
marbles does Tom have to get to have as many as Joe?").
In these problems, there exists a conflict between the overall category situation as additive or subtractive and the operation required to solve
a particular problem subtype.

Table 1 were chosen to be comprehensible to the second- a final state. Therefore the same basic drawing was used for
grade children participating in this study. these two types, and the different nature of the change was
Because all problems involve three quantities and any of represented by a plus or minus symbol inserted by the child
these quantities can be unknown, there are three possible (see Figure 1). The Put-Together drawing was the part-part-
problem subtypes within each main problem type (see Table whole drawing used in the Developing Mathematical Proc-
1). Two of these require subtraction of the two given numbers esses series (Romberg, Harvey, Moser, & Montgomery, 1974).
in the problem and one requires addition of the two givens. However, the quantities were labeled part, part, and all (rather
Some of the problems created by particular unknowns may than whole) because often there is no actual "whole" that
be especially difficult because of the internal conflict between comprises the two given sets in a Put-Together problem. The
the basic semantic structure of the underlying situation as Compare drawing contained big and small quantities placed
additive or subtractive and the solution strategy (addition or adjacent to one another to facilitate their comparison; the
subtraction) required to solve a given problem with a partic- difference was enclosed by a broken line because that differ-
ular kind of unknown (DeCorte & Verschaffel, 1985a; Greer, ence is not actually a physically separate entity in a Compare
in press; Vergnaud, 1982; Willis & Fuson, 1985). For example, structure. The three quantities in each problem were given
in a Change-Get-More situation, a missing Start problem has mnemonic labels (see Figure 1). Children were to write the
the additive Change-Get-More underlying structure, but one letter for each label on the known or unknown quantity in
can solve it by subtracting the change number from the end the problem and then enter the known quantities into their
number. The conflict problems are footnoted in Table 1. correct place in the drawing. The drawing could then be used
Conflict problems have been found to be particularly difficult to determine the correct solution strategy. The choice of
for children (see Carpenter & Moser, 1983, and Riley et al., solution procedure was aided by the presence of the drawing
1983, for reviews). Therefore, of particular interest was either through the relations among the physical sizes of the
whether the schematic drawings would improve performance different parts or by the temporal ordering implied by the
on conflict problems. drawing.
Three different kinds of schematic drawings were used in The ultimate question, of course, is whether teaching sche-
the word problem instruction (see Figure 1). The Change- matic drawings improves children's ability to solve word
Get-More and Change-Get-Less problem structures are simi- problems. The prior question is whether children can even
lar; both problem types involve an initial state, a change, and learn this method. Because of the complexity of this method,

PUT-TOGETHER (COMBINE): missing SECOND PART problem types stem from difficulty in representing these prob-
(All) (Part) (Part) lems at a global level (indicated by children's making an
Jon and Bill have 814 toys altogether. Jon has 342 toys. How many toys inappropriate drawing), in understanding the specific relations
does Bill have? p p
among the three problem quantities (indicated by children's
342 inserting the three numbers into the drawing incorrectly), in
choosing a correct solution strategy (indicated by children's
adding instead of subtracting or vice versa), or in carrying out
814 the solution strategy correctly (indicated by children's making
A an addition or subtraction error).
Schematic drawings also provide an opportunity to obtain
CHANGE-GET-MORE; missing START information about how children represent problems, infor-
(Start) (Change) (End) mation that is not available when children solve problems by
Jon had some toys. Then Bill gave him J42 more toys. Now Jon has 814 toys. usual methods. This information is particularly pertinent to
How many toys did Jon have to start with? two hypotheses concerning such representations. Resnick
C (1983) proposed that children use a single part-part-whole
s £342 ) E schema, such as the Put-Together drawing, for the represen-
tation of all four kinds of addition and subtraction word
^ -^ 814 problems. Riley et al. (1983) and Kintsch and Greeno (1985)
hypothesized that children use a part-part-whole schema to
solve the more difficult kinds of Change problems. The former
proposal would be supported by a tendency for children to
make the Put-Together drawing for all types of problems and
(Start) (Change) (End)
Jon had 814 toys. Then he gave some toys to Bill. Now Jon has 342 toys. for this drawing to facilitate their solution. The latter proposal
How many toys did Jon give to Bill? would be supported by such a tendency for the more difficult
Change problems.
E A final focus of the study was to ascertain which of the 12
problem types are within the zone of proximal development
814 342 of second graders when multidigit numbers are used in the
problems (i.e., which types second graders can learn with
instructional support). There are at present no data on this
point. Children in the United States typically are infrequently
COMPARE: missing BIG exposed to the more difficult problem types with either small
(Small) (Difference) or large numbers (Stigler, Fuson, Ham, & Kim, 1986), and
Jon has 342 toys. Bill has 472 more toys than Jon has.
How many toys does Bill have? research on children's ability to solve the more difficult types
S D has been limited to sums and differences to 18 (Carpenter &
Moser, 1983; Riley et al., 1983). However, a comparative
342 472 i analysis of mathematics textbooks suggests that second grad-
ers might be able to solve the easier types with large numbers
and could perhaps improve in solving some of the more
difficult types. The mathematics series used nationwide in the
Soviet Union includes for both first and second grades all 12
kinds of problems with a distribution that is almost equal
Figure 1. Examples of word problems with verbal labels applied across the 12 types (Stigler et al., 1986). The second-grade
and drawings as they would be filled before selection of a solution
procedure. text includes problems with two-digit numbers, and texts for
both grades include many two-step problems that involve two
different categories of problems (Stigler et al., 1986, and
this question breaks into several questions, each of which was unpublished data from this study). Because Soviet children
focused on in the data collection and analysis. Can children begin school 1 year later than children in the United States,1
make the schematic drawings? Do they choose the correct it seemed possible that the difficult problems with large num-
category of drawing for a problem (e.g., make Put-Together bers would be too difficult for low-ability second graders.
drawings for Put-Together problems)? If not, what are the Therefore this study was restricted to United States second
major kinds of substitutions of one category for another? Do graders who were of average and above-average ability in
they enter the numbers into a drawing so that it represents mathematics.
the particular problem correctly? Do children choose the It was possible to use multidigit numbers in this study
correct solution strategy? How are the problem representa- because the children in our sample had previously been taught
tions related to the choices of solution strategy? Is the solution
strategy carried out correctly—that is, does it lead to the 1
The Soviet Union has now started to admit first graders at age 6.
correct answer to the problem? The schematic drawings thus However, the text series containing all types of word problems was
enable us to pinpoint whether low rates of solving certain designed for 7-year-old first graders.

algorithms for solving multidigit addition and subtraction drawings for typical Change and Compare stories are also provided
problems (Fuson, 1986a). The children used finger-pattern in Figure 1.
counting procedures for performing single-digit computations Worksheets and tests, Practice worksheets were constructed both
when an addition or subtraction fact was unknown (Fuson, for student practice and to provide data on problem difficulty. Pure
1986b; Fuson & Secada, 1986; Fuson & Willis, in press); they worksheets were those containing problems from a single semantic
were taught to count up rather than down for subtraction category. The Put-Together, Change-Get-More, and Change-Get-Less
problems (e.g., 1 4 - 8 was solved by counting up from 8 to worksheets each contained 18 problems equally distributed across
each of the three missing positions. The Compare worksheets con-
14). These children were in general quite competent at single- tained 27 problems distributed equally across the three missing posi-
digit and multidigit computation. tions and across problems in which the words more and fewer
appeared (e.g., "How many fewer problems does Joe have than
Tom?"). The mixed worksheets contained 24 intermixed problems
Method equally distributed across the four semantic categories and across the
three missing positions for each type. The equal distribution across
problem variables permitted analyses in which we compared the
Subjects relative difficulty of different problem types and different missing
positions. However, it was not an instructionally maximal treatment,
Subjects were second-grade children from two public schools in a
which would have concentrated on problems with which children
small city near Chicago. The schools in this city enroll children of
were having the most difficulty.
widely varying socioeconomic status. One of the classes contained 24
students and was categorized by the teachers as containing children The 10 most difficult problem subtypes were selected for inclusion
with high math ability (Class HA). The other class contained 19 in 10-problem pretests and posttests given to children before and after
children categorized by teachers as children of average math ability the teaching. These tests omitted the simple "Put-Together: missing
(Class AA). all" and the "Change-Get-More: missing end" problems because we
were concerned about fatigue and time limitations that would have
occurred with a longer test. The easiest problems were omitted
Procedure because we were concerned about ceiling effects on these problems.
In all of the Compare problems, the word more, rather than fewer,
Use of the schematic drawings. The categories of word problems was used. Problems were ordered so that no two problems from the
used in the study appear in Table 1 and the schematic drawings used identical semantic category (Put-Together, Change, Compare) were
for each category of word problems appear in Figure 1; both were placed sequentially. To control for problem ordering effects, we
discussed in the introduction. Children were first introduced to a constructed two forms in which problems were listed in the reverse
general category of word problems and shown the drawing for that order. All numbers in problems were of three digits, and one trade
category. For any given problem, they were taught first to write on (carrying or borrowing) was required to obtain the sum or difference.
the problem the letter for the verbal labels naming the three elements Children were given the test initially as a pretest and allowed to solve
in the story (the two givens and the unknown). The particular labels problems in any way. When the test was given as a posttest, children
in Figure 1 were substituted for Riley et al.'s (1983) labels because were told to make a schematic drawing for each problem. Each
they were more appropriate for second graders. problem was then evaluated with respect to whether the drawing
After applying the labels, the children were taught to make the made was of the correct problem category, the numbers were filled
schematic drawing that is appropriate for that general story category. into the drawing correctly, the correct solution strategy was chosen,
The drawing contained three parts, one corresponding to each of the and the solution strategy was carried out correctly.
labeled story elements. The two given numbers were then written in Organization of the instruction. Teaching was divided into units;
the appropriate parts of the drawing; these locations were determined one major problem category was taught within a unit. The order of
by the labels attached to the numbers. Last, the children chose the teaching was Put-Together, Change-Get-More, Change-Get-Less,
correct arithmetic solution procedure by determining how to obtain Compare, and mixed problem categories. The first unit taught to
the unknown (either by adding or subtracting), given the two filled Class HA focused first on small-number problems (sums and differ-
parts. The drawing facilitates this choice either by the relative sizes of ences to 18), and small-number worksheets were completed before
the sections of the drawing (for Put-Together and Compare problems, large-number problems were introduced. This was done because we
"small + small = big" and "big — small = small") or by the temporal were afraid that beginning with the large numbers would be too
ordering of events (for Change-Get-More and Change-Get-Less prob- difficult. For the first unit, children were also instructed to write a
lems, "some + some more = a larger result" and "some — some of number sentence that reflected the semantic structure of the problem
them = a smaller result"). (e.g., 6 + = 14 or + 342 = 629) before solution. It
An exampleof how this series of steps is applied to a Put-Together became evident, however, that the writing of the number sentence
problem is provided in the first part of Figure 1. The child identifies problem equation was a burdensome and much-resisted extra step at
the problem as a type from the Put-Together category and applies the both number sizes and that children tended to write the equation
appropriate verbal labels (part, part, and all) to the word problem, after solution or else omitted it entirely. Therefore, this step was
writing P, P, and A by the appropriate words. The first part (P) is bypassed in further units.
represented by Jon, the second and unknown (P) by Bill, and the all All teaching was done by one of the investigators. In one math
(A) by the given altogether. The next step is to produce the drawing, period, story problems of a particular category were presented, the
and the following step is to fill in the given elements. The child then classification and labeling were described, and the complete solution
analyzes the relations between the two known numbers in the drawing for different variants of the problem was illustrated by the instructor.
and arrives at the subtraction solution to obtain the unknown (the Then the children spent between 2 and 4 days completing the practice
number that is to fill the empty box). Thus the physically represented worksheets for that category. Children received little systematic indi-
"part + part = all" structure is potentially capable of inducing the vidualized feedback on the worksheets because these were kept for
proper solution strategy as long as the child has filled in the sections purposes of analysis. As much as possible, particular difficulties that
of the drawing correctly. Examples of the use of the labels and children had were addressed initially as the instructor aided them

individually on worksheets and later when additional brief classroom problems (i.e., on the Class HA mixed worksheets), the per-
instruction was used to rectify general problems that became apparent centages of correct drawing selection were fairly similar across
through scrutiny of childrens' behavior in solving worksheet prob- the four problem categories: The correct drawing was made
lems. The initial teaching of each problem type was restricted to the
story-problem category under current consideration. When a new
roughly three fourths of the time. The most frequent mistake
category was introduced, the differences rather than similarities be- was making the Compare drawing for Put-Together problems.
tween it and previous categories were emphasized. All of these were made for the "Put-Together: missing-part"
After all four categories of problems had been introduced and problems; none were for the "missing all" problems. Thus
practiced, a short unit was given on problems of mixed categories. some HA children seem to interpret a Put-Together problem
For these problems, children had to decide which major category of with a known whole and known part as a comparison between
problem a particular story represented and then make that drawing. the whole and the part. Also somewhat frequent were Put-
Again, the particular defining features of each of the main categories Together drawings made for Change-Get-More problems.
were stressed. These indicate that the Compare drawings made for Put-
For the AA class, the Change-Get-More and Change-Get-Less units Together problems were not simply a result of an overall
were aggregated because transfer from a Get-More to a Get-Less preference for making the Compare drawing.
structure was very rapid. No instruction on small numbers was given
because the HA children had coped quite well with the larger num-
The HA class posttest drawing selections showed improve-
bers. Unfortunately, the second class had to be taught near the end ment over those made for the worksheets in every category
of the school year when unexpected activities intruded. Consequently, except Put-Together. The percentages of correct selections of
insufficient time was available for practicing the separate units and Change and Compare drawings were very high. Because the
especially for completing the worksheets of mixed problem categories. Put-Together and Compare drawings are so similar, an alter-
These children completed on the average only half of the mixed native scoring gave credit for Compare drawings made for
problems and had no time to receive a review that stressed distinctions Put-Together problems and vice versa. When this was done
among the problem types. (see the PT/Cm percentages in Table 2), the score for Put-
Together problems increased to the high level of the other
Results problem categories. As on the worksheets, this tendency to-
ward mislabeling was asymmetric: Compare drawings were
Selection of the Appropriate Drawing made for Put-Together problems much more than the reverse
(24% vs. 6%). All of the Put-Together problems on the posttest
Children were able to make all of the schematic drawings were of the "missing part" type, and the percentage of Com-
used in the study. They also were fairly good at selecting the pare substitutions for Put-Together problems almost doubled
appropriate drawing (i.e., at making the drawing that matched from the worksheets to the posttest, from 13% to 24%. Thus
the word problem category). The percentages of correct draw- the tendency for these children to view "Put-Together: missing
ing selection are given in Table 2 for the posttests and for the part" problems as "Compare: missing difference" problems
Class HA mixed worksheets (the Class AA mixed worksheets certainly did not decrease with practice.
were not analyzed because so few children had time to com- The overall level of posttest correct drawing selection was
plete them). When the HA children werefirstpracticing mixed considerably lower for Class AA than for Class HA. When

Table 2
Percentage of Correct Performance by Problem Category on Measures of Problem Representation
Drawing selection
Drawing Overall Solution
Measure Correct PT/Cm Fill-in representation strategy
Class HA mixed worksheets 75 88 72 84 92
Class HA posttest 69 93 88 93 95
Class AA posttest 71 93 79 84 92
Class HA mixed worksheets 72 65 81 84
Class HA posttest 90 83 93 95
Class AA posttest 79 67 79 83
Class HA mixed worksheets 83 72 79 81
Class HA posttest 92 84 87 83
Class AA posttest 61 61 81 69
Class HA mixed worksheets 83 89 56 71 73
Class HA posttest 89 95 74 78 87
Class AA posttest 72 94 61 69 69
Note. Drawing fill-in is the percentage of correct drawings filled in correctly; it includes Put-Together and Compare substitutions for each other.
Overall representation includes any drawing in which the placement of numbers would lead to the correct solution strategy. HA = high ability;
AA = average ability; PT = Put-Together; Cm = Compare.
These percentages include those cases in which Compare drawings were selected for Put-Together problems and vice versa.

Put-Together drawings made for Compare problems and vice Analysis of the Class HA worksheets by missing position
versa were scored as correct, selection of a correct drawing indicated that four problem subtypes were particularly diffi-
rose above 90% for these two categories. The substitutions of cult for children to represent in this initial learning period.
these two types for each other were symmetric for this class, The "Change-Get-More: missing end," "Change-Get-Less:
suggesting a more general confusion between these similar missing start," "Compare: missing big," and "Compare: miss-
drawings. Correct drawings were made for Change-Get-Less ing small" problems had more than twice as many incorrect
problems markedly less often than for the other three problem overall representations as did the other subtypes within these
categories; Put-Together drawings were often made for these main types. On the HA posttest, "Compare: missing big" and
problems. "Compare: missing small" were the most difficult to represent;
"Compare: missing difference," "Change-Get-More: missing
start," and "Change-Get-Less: missing start" were somewhat
Filling in the Drawing more difficult than the remainder of the problem subtypes.
On the AA posttest, differences in representation were spread
Drawings were scored as correctly filled in if the correct fairly equally across missing positions and main categories,
semantic type was drawn and the numbers were placed cor- though "Compare: missing big" and "Compare: missing dif-
rectly within the drawings, with the exception that substitu- ference" were the problem subtypes represented least well.
tions of Compare and Put-Together drawings were allowed Thus there was some difficulty in representing all of the
because of their considerable similarity. Percentages of correct Compare missing positions, but the "missing big" problem
drawing fill-in are given in Table 2. For Class HA, the overall was particularly difficult to represent.
average correct fill-in was 66% on the worksheets. This rose
to 82% correct on the posttest, indicating considerable learn- Use of Correct Solution Strategy
ing from the worksheet practice and the review. On both
worksheets and the posttest, performance on the Compare A solution strategy was scored as addition if the answer was
problems was somewhat lower than for the other three prob- greater than the two numbers given in the problem; it was
lem categories. The results for Class AA posttests generally scored as subtraction if the answer was less than the larger
paralleled those of Class HA, but were overall about 15% number. The percentages of problems on which children
lower. It is not clear (a) how much of the decrement in this chose the correct solution strategy are given in Table 2. On
class in comparison with the first is due to difference in ability the posttests both classes used correct solution strategies more
and (b) how much was produced by the less-than-adequate frequently on the additive Put-Together and Change-Get-
learning and review time. More situations than on the subtractive Change-Get-Less and
Compare situations, even though the easiest problems in each
of the additive categories were omitted from the posttest. This
Overall Adequate Problem Representation difference between overall additive and subtractive categories
was greater in Class AA than in Class HA. Overall, Class HA
A second analysis of problem representation considered had an impressively high correct choice of solution strategy
only whether the drawing produced by the child adequately (89%), and Class AA had a respectable 77%.
represented the relationship among the problem elements, The pure worksheets completed by Class HA permitted an
independently of the drawing initially made by the child. analysis by missing position within each main category with-
Thus if one would select the correct solution strategy from a out the distractions of other problem types. Put-Together and
filled-in drawing, the drawing was credited as a correct overall Change-Get-More problems showed no effect of missing po-
representation (see Table 2). This analysis was done because sition on correct strategy. Analysis of two pure Change-Get-
one can assimilate a given problem into a different problem Less worksheets revealed significant effects of missing position
structure while still remaining faithful to the relationships in on performance for both, Fs(2, 46) = 15.17 (MSE = 0.15) and
the story; for example, one can think of a Change-Get-More 4.50 {MSE - 0.24), ps < .02, respectively; strategy scores were
problem as a Put-Together problem in which the starting much lower when the missing element was the first one (the
quantity and the change are the "parts" and the end quantity start quantity). Averaged across the two worksheets, the mean
is the "all." We wished to ensure that children could have this performance levels were 63%, 94%, and 90% correct for the
freedom of individual interpretation; the use of drawings was start, change, and end quantities, respectively. Compare work-
intended to be facilitative, not prescriptive. On the posttest, sheets also showed a significant effect of missing position,
only one problem category had more than three instances of Fs(2, 42) = 8.30 (MSB = 0.21) and 5.77 (MSB = 0.19), ps <
a correct overall representation that differed from the problem .03, respectively; the missing big form (68% correct across
category.2 For Class AA there were six instances of a Put- worksheets) was much more difficult than the others (96%
and 91 %, respectively, for missing difference and small). Thus
Together drawing filled in correctly for a Change-Get-Less
problem; these instances were distributed across all three
missing positions. Though the number of correctly filled-in 2
Because the drawing fill-in percentages already include Put-To-
noncanonical drawings was fairly small, such drawings did gether and Compare substitutions for each other, the correct overall
raise the percentages of correct overall representation to 79, representation percentages of course also include a substantial num-
87, and 78 for the HA mixed worksheets, the HA posttest, ber of Compare drawings correctly representing "Put-Together: miss-
and the AA posttest, respectively. ing part" problems.

for both Change and Compare problems, it appears that particular problem category: 50% versus 91% for the Class
children have difficulty interpreting these "subtractive" types HA posttest, 50% versus 80% for the Class AA posttest, and
as ones that require an addition, even with the help of the 65% versus 87% for the Class HA mixed worksheets. The
schematic drawing. more specific proposal of Riley et al. (1983) and of Kintsch
and Greeno (1985) that children solve the more difficult
Relationship Between Overall Representation and Change problems by using a Combine (Put-Together) schema
also received little support. Class HA used Put-Together draw-
Correct Solution Strategy ings on only 3% of the Change posttest problems. Class AA
On the posttest, the fit between a correct overall represen- used them more frequently, on 17% of the Change-Get-More
tation and a correct solution strategy was quite good. Most of problems and on 33% of the Change-Get-Less problems.
the time a correct overall representation led to the choice of However, the Put-Together drawing was much less effective
a correct solution strategy: on only 5% and 1% of the prob- than the Change drawing for Change problems. The Change
lems for Class HA and Class AA, respectively, was there a drawing was filled in correctly 93% of the time and led to a
correct solution procedure 85% of the time, whereas the Put-
correct overall representation but an incorrect solution strat-
Together drawings used for Change problems were filled in
egy. Of these, 84% were on conflict problems, those in which
correctly only 50% of the time and led to a correct solution
the underlying semantic problem category conflicts with the only 54% of the time.
solution strategy. Thus the semantic elements in a conflict
problem may stimulate an incorrect solution strategy even if
a proper drawing has been made. Furthermore, an incorrect Pre-Post Improvement
overall representation only rarely, on 8% and 6% of the
posttest problems for Class HA and Class AA, respectively, Mean performance scores on the 10-problem pretests and
led to a correct strategy. For Class AA these cases were posttests for correct strategy and correct answer measures are
distributed across all problem categories. For Class HA, over given by missing position in Table 3. For Class HA, there was
half of such cases were Compare problems, distributed across a significant overall pre-post strategy improvement from 79%
all three missing positions. to 89%, tilff) = 3.09, p < .01. The percentage of correct
answers also improved significantly, from 56% to 72%, t{2§)
Use of the Put-Together Drawings for Other = 2.99,/»<.01. The fairly sizable discrepancy between correct
Problem Categories strategy and answer measures for this class on the posttest was
mainly due to the tendency of many children to attempt to
There was little evidence to support Resnick's (1983) pro- perform the three-digit addition or subtraction straight from
posal that children use a part-whole schema like the Put- the drawing or from the story without first copying the
Together drawing to solve all of the word problem types. On numbers in a vertical form necessary for appropriate use of
the posttest, Class HA showed considerably more use of the the computation algorithms. Large variations in individual
Compare drawing for Put-Together problems than of Put- problem difficulty were observed for this class. Increases in
Together drawings for any non-Put-Together type. When a performance for individual problem subtypes were tested with
child did choose a Put-Together drawing for a non-Put- McNemar's (1954) test of correlated proportions; results are
Together problem, these drawings led to a correct solution shown in Table 3. The strategy scores generally improved
strategy much less frequently than did the drawings for the significantly on all problems for which there was sufficient

Table 3
Percentage of Correct Strategy Use and Correct Answers on the Pretest ("Pre") and Posttest ("Post")
Strategy Answer
Class HA Class AA Class HA Class AA
Problem Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Missing first part 86 95 67 83 43 86* iS 67*
Missing second part 95 95 58 100* 71 67 58 92
Missing start 81 90 67 83 48 81* 58 83
Missing change 57 100* 58 83 33 86* 42 83*
Missing start 52 62 58 42 52 57 42 42
Missing change 95 100 67 83 76 81 6/ 83
Missing end 86 86 67 83 62 71 58 67
Missing difference 100 100 75 75 67 67 6/ 58
Missing small 86 86 67 92 62 67 58 75
Missing big 52 76* 50 42 43 57 42 42

room for improvement except on the "Change-Get-Less: representation and in correct solution strategy than was use
missing start" problem. of the drawings matching the problem category. Thus using
Class AA also made significant overall improvements in three different kinds of drawings seems to be more effective
strategy and answer variables: from 63% to 77% for correct than using just one kind, a result consistent with that of
strategy and from 53% to 70% for correct answer (both ps < Zwerts (cited in DeCorte & Verschaffel, 1985b, and available
.05). The two problem subtypes that required addition showed only after our study was completed).
a small decrease in strategy scores, raising the possibility that Both classes showed improvement from the pretest to the
some children within this class simply tended to subtract on posttest in selecting the correct solution strategy and in finding
all problems at the posttest and therefore improved overall the correct answer. Particular improvement was shown for
on posttest score only because 8 of the 10 problems required those conflict problems with an additive semantic structure
subtraction. This possibility was partly supported by the find- (i.e., the Put-Together and Change-Get-More problems re-
ing that 4 of the 12 children for whom complete posttest and quiring subtraction). However, on worksheets and on the
worksheet data were available did in fact subtract all problems posttest, children showed particular difficulty with those con-
at the posttest, although they did not do so on the worksheets. flict problem types that had an underlying subtractive struc-
An examination of the pretest-posttest strategy scores of the ture (Change-Get-Less and Compare problems) but required
remaining children indicated that there was considerable im- addition as the solution strategy. Attempts to target specific
provement on the three problems that showed the Largest teaching toward such problems therefore seem justified. Over-
increases in Table 3: "Put-Together: missing second part," all, however, the posttest scores indicate that all 12 of these
"Change-Get-More: missing change," and "Compare: missing problem types are well within the "zone of proximal devel-
small." Thus the improvement in Class AA would best be opment" of American second graders of average and above-
considered as being limited to these three types of problems. average ability; that is, these children can profit from instruc-
No child in Class HA used the same operation on all problems tion on and practice with these problems. Because these
on any worksheet or test. problems all contained three-digit numbers that involved
The two problem types that showed the lowest posttest trading (borrowing and carrying), problems with smaller num-
performance for both classes were the conflict problems for bers might well be within the range of below-average second
the subtractive problem categories: the Change-Get-Less and graders or above-average first graders. The almost total omis-
sion of the more difficult subtypes of addition and subtraction
the Compare problems that require addition. All four prob-
word problems from United States textbooks thus does not
lems in the additive problem categories (Put-Together and
seem warranted.
Change-Get-More) showed fairly high posttest performance,
and they are conflict problems: They require subtraction for There are several ways in which the teaching unit presented
solution. Therefore, the subtractive conflict problems seem to here might be improved in an attempt to achieve more sizable
be particularly difficult to learn to solve. increases in performance: (a) spacing the learning of word
problem solutions throughout the school year for children to
Discussion benefit from distributed practice on mixed types of problems;
(b) relating the word problem instruction to instruction on
Second graders of average and above-average mathematics symbolic addition and subtraction so that children do not
ability can make the schematic drawings used in this study, learn only a single interpretation of addition or subtraction
can reliably distinguish among the different semantic word that later must be unlearned; (c) always giving a mix of
problem categories and make the correct drawing for a prob- problems that will require some addition and some subtrac-
lem from the category, can usually insert the numbers from tion so that children never work word problems mindlessly
the problem into the drawing correctly, and can select the by simply combining the numbers in all problems in the same
correct solution strategy for most problems. There was a way; (d) giving feedback to individual students about their
strong relation between a correctly filled-in drawing and a performance; and (e) targeting more teaching and practice
correct solution strategy; few correctly filled-in drawings led effort toward the most difficult semantic subtypes. The order
to an incorrect solution strategy, and few incorrectly filled-in of teaching of Put-Together, Change, and Compare that was
drawings led to a correct strategy. On about a fourth of the used does seem to have been appropriate. Put-Together prob-
lems are easy to represent and are also generally easy to solve,
posttest Put-Together problems with a missing part, the
and therefore serve as a good introduction, whereas Compare
above-average children made a Compare drawing; these draw-
stories and their representations are difficult and should be
ings led to correct solution strategies and may reflect some presented later.
children's view that these problems primarily involve a com-
parison between the small "part" and the big "all." The Our work suggested two improvements in the schematic
average children substituted Put-Together and Compare drawings. First, the drawings for the Put-Together and Com-
drawings for each other on about a fifth of each kind of pare problems should be inverted so that the large box is
problem, seemingly indicating a general confusion between placed above the small ones. This enables the child, in moving
these similar drawings. There was little evidence that children from the drawing to a vertical subtraction problem, to retain
successfully used Put-Together drawings for all problems types the two given numbers in the same spatial relationship. Be-
(cf. Resnick, 1983) or for the more difficult Change problems cause problems requiring addition have drawings with the
(cf. Riley et al., 1983, and Kintsch & Greeno, 1985). Such numbers to be added beside each other, this change makes
use was infrequent or was considerably less accurate in overall no difference for such problems. Second, the Compare draw-

PUT-TOGETHER ing might be altered so that the two smaller boxes correspond-
ing to the small and difference elements are physically sepa-
A rated from the box containing the big element, thus percep-
tually differentiating the Compare drawing from the similar
Put-Together drawing. Examples of the updated drawings for
use in later studies are illustrated in Figure 2.
The use of equations that semantically model a problem as
intermediate representations during problem solution seems
to be superfluous in conjunction with the schematic drawings.
Furthermore, because many young children consider the
equal sign in equations to mean "results in" or "gives" (Bar-
oody & Ginsburg, 1983; Behr, Erlwanger, & Nichols, 1980;
Kieran, 1980; Labinowicz, 1982), equations seem to be more
appropriate for young children to use for Change problems
than for the other types of problems. Thus equations may not
be an effective substitute for the drawings for Put-Together
and Compare problems. Interestingly, DeCorte and Verschaf-
CHANGE-GET-MORE fel (1985a) reported that children often have trouble writing
equations, especially for problems in which there is a conflict
C between the semantic structure of a problem and the solution
procedure. However, this problem may be acute only for the
Put-Together and Compare problems, insofar as Bebout
E (1986) showed that children can readily learn to write number
sentences that directly model Change problems with various
missing positions.
The results also suggest that the use of labels such as Put-
Together, Change, and Compare may be useful in helping
children distinguish among the different semantic types of
word problems and, ultimately, in solving the difficult conflict
problems. At the beginning of instruction, when asked "What
kind of problem is this?", children called problems simply
CHANGE-GET-LESS "addition" or "subtraction" problems. This classification per-
mits confusion between the semantic structure of a problem
C as additive or subtractive and the required arithmetic solution
procedure (addition or subtraction). The problem category

labels and schematic drawings allow distinctions to be made
between these two different aspects and provide an organiza-
tion of the problem elements that may facilitate the decision
concerning the arithmetic solution procedure. Thus the draw-
ings may provide a more general and more flexible basis for
the learning of the relationships between concrete situations
and the numerical problems that describe and enable one to
solve those situations.

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