Problem Representation and Mathematical Problem Solving of Students of Varying Math Ability


The purpose of this study was to examine differences in math problem solving among students with learning disabilities (LD, n = 25), low-achieving students (LA, n = 30), and average-achieving students (AA, n = 29). The primary interest was to analyze the processes students use to translate and integrate problem information while solving problems. Paraphrasing, visual representation, and problem-solving accuracy were measured in eighth grade students using a researcher-modified version of the Mathematical Processing Instrument. Results indicated that both students with LD and LA students struggled with processing but that students with LD were significantly weaker than their LA peers in paraphrasing relevant information. Paraphrasing and visual representation accuracy each accounted for a statistically significant amount of variance in problem-solving accuracy. Finally, the effect of visual representation of relevant information on problem-solving accuracy was dependent on ability; specifically, for students with LD, generating accurate visual representations was more strongly related to problem-solving accuracy than for AA students. Implications for instruction for students with and without LD are discussed.


Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education

Document Type





cognitive strategies, middle school, problem solving

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Learning Disabilities