Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Dr. Christie Martin

First Reader

Tara Truesdale

Second Reader

Tara Truesdale


This thesis is an extensive literature review designed to better understand the obstacles high school math students encounter when solving word problems (WPs). While many high school students find math difficult in general, students especially struggle with WPs. Often they are unable to provide correct solutions to WPs even when they are successful in solving computational problems using the same mathematical concepts (Cummins, 1988). Data from the 2007 National Survey of Algebra Teachers suggests that solving WPs is one of the skills that students are most unprepared for when entering Algebra 1 (Hoffer et al.). Additionally, many students try to avoid WPs or want to use a simple formula to solve them without understanding the context of the problems (Meyer, 2010). This thesis explores empirical studies and research from the last forty years to discuss problem solving, problem formulation, and disciplinary literacy as factors that contribute to why WPs hard for high school math students. Finally, it provides recommendations for ways to modify existing resources to craft better WPs and to develop a math classroom curriculum that addresses the challenges presented above and begins to integrate the theory of disciplinary literacy into classroom pedagogy.

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© 2023, Emily Charlotte Elliott