Contextual Images in Mathematics Problem Solving 

Solving word-problems is a difficult task for many students.  Understanding, 
the first step to solving a problem (Polya, 1945; Kintsch & Greeno, 1983), 
requires the activation of three schemata; the language, the contextual, and 
the mathematical.  Students who are unable to construct a contextual understanding 
of a problem situation are limited in their understanding of the problem 
(Brown & Wheatley, 1997). This study investigated the effects of providing a dual 
system of contextual information, the words of the problem coupled with an image 
to activate the contextual schema, on the mathematical problem solving of 5th and 
6th grade students.  MANOVA indicated that the presentation of the contextual 
images had no effect on problem solving performance.  An analysis of student work 
indicated that many students chose a correct strategy to solve a given problem.  
However, their application of the strategy (for example an algorithm) was incorrect 
or incomplete.