# Effects of Problem Context on Strategy Use within Functional Thinking

- Katherine McEldoon,
*Vanderbilt University*
- Caroline Cochrane-Braswell ,
*Vanderbilt University*
- Bethany Rittle-Johnson,
*Vanderbilt University*

## Abstract

The effect of problem format on problem solving strategy selection
is investigated within the early algebra domain of functional thinking.
Functional Thinking is a type of algebraic reasoning appropriate for elementary
students, in which a relationship exists between two sets of values. Three
function table problems were given to students in grades two through six (N=232)
in three different problem contexts. Problem context affected student strategy
selection. Presenting the problem with non-indexical X values elicited the most
correct strategy use, whereas the format with indexical X values elicited the
most naïve and incorrect strategy use. Presenting the problem in a story
context did not help correct strategy selection, but it decreased incorrect
strategy use. Findings highlight factors influencing strategy selection, and have
implication for instructional design and problem solving.

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