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1.

Jäder, Jonas

Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.

Students' ability to develop their mathematical competency is influenced by the tasks they work with. A routine task is a task that a student can solve by using a familiar method, or by imitating a template. In order to solve a mathematical problem however, the student needs to construct a to her new solution method. To develop their mathematical competency, students need to work with routine tasks as well as mathematical problems. A creative problem-solving skill, as well as a conceptual understanding may be developed through problem solving.

The thesis consists of five studies, of which the purpose of studies 1-3 was to explore the opportunities to work with mathematical problem solving offered to students in secondary school. Tasks in textbooks from 12 countries were analyzed (study 1), and approximately 10 percent of these were mathematical problems. The students worked (study 2) almost exclusively with tasks categorized by the textbook authors as easy. Among these tasks, the proportion of mathematical problems was 4 percent. Nor among tasks categorized as 'problem solving' or 'exploring', mathematical problems were predominant. The proportions were relatively similar in textbooks from the twelve countries. Students' beliefs that routine work is more secure and something that is reasonable to expect in mathematics (study 3) can have an additional impact on their opportunites to mathematical problem solving. Given the positive effects of problem solving, students' opportunities to work with problem solving seem limited. There is potential in an increased proportion of mathematical problems in textbooks, as well as in a more deliberate task selection from these textbooks.

The purpose of studies 4 and 5 was to contribute towards a better understanding of mathematical problems and mathematical problem solving. An analytical framework was developed to identify creative, conceptual and other challenges in students' problem solving. Each challenge was characterized to be able to understand and describe these components of problem solving. Students' work with mathematical problems (study 4) and the, by teachers anticipated challenges students face in problem solving (study 5) were studied. Conceptual and creative challenges proved to be the most central to students' problem solving. Through the characteristics of each of the challenges, the relation between task and challenge, and difficulties in identifying, especially the creative challenge, was discussed.

Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden.

Lithner, Johan

Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.

Sidenvall, Johan

Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.

A selection of secondary school mathematics textbooks from twelve countries on five continents was analysed to better understand the support they might be in teaching and learning mathematical problem solving. Over 5700 tasks were compared to the information provided earlier in each textbook to determine whether each task could be solved by mimicking available templates or whether a solution had to be constructed without guidance from the textbook. There were similarities between the twelve textbooks in the sense that most tasks could be solved using a template as guidance. A significantly lower proportion of the tasks required a solution to be constructed. This was especially striking in the initial sets of tasks. Textbook descriptions indicating problem solving did not guarantee that a task solution had to be constructed without the support of an available template.

School of Education, Health and Social Studies, Dalarna University, Sweden; Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University, Norrköping, Sweden.

Sidenvall, Johan

Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University, Norrköping, Sweden; School Administration, Municipality of Hudiksvall, Hudiksvall, Sweden.

Beliefs and problem solving are connected and have been studied in different contexts. One of the common results of previous research is that students tend to prefer algorithmic approaches to mathematical tasks. This study explores Swedish upper secondary school students’ beliefs and reasoning when solving non-routine tasks. The results regarding the beliefs indicated by the students were found deductively and include expectations, motivational beliefs and security. When it comes to reasoning, a variety of approaches were found. Even though the tasks were designed to demand more than imitation of algorithms, students used this method and failed to solve the task.

Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University, Sweden.

Lithner, Johan

Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC).

Jäder, Jonas

Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköping University, Sweden.

Students' reasoning in mathematics textbook task-solving2015In: International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, ISSN 0020-739X, E-ISSN 1464-5211, Vol. 46, no 4, p. 533-552Article in journal (Refereed)

Abstract [en]

This study reports on an analysis of students' textbook task-solving in Swedish upper secondary school. The relation between types of mathematical reasoning required, used, and the rate of correct task solutions were studied. Rote learning and superficial reasoning were common, and 80% of all attempted tasks were correctly solved using such imitative strategies. In the few cases where mathematically founded reasoning was used, all tasks were correctly solved. The study suggests that student collaboration and dialogue does not automatically lead to mathematically founded reasoning and deeper learning. In particular, in the often common case where the student simply copies a solution from another student without receiving or asking for mathematical justification, it may even be a disadvantage for learning to collaborate. The results also show that textbooks' worked examples and theory sections are not used as an aid by the student in task-solving.