Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Education


Teacher Education

First Advisor

William J. Sumrall

Second Advisor

Douglas R. Davis

Third Advisor

Carol Livingston

Relational Format



This qualitative research study used a multiple, holistic case study approach (Yin, 2009) to explore the perceptions of reluctant problem solvers related to mathematical tasks without words and word problems. Participants were given a choice of working a mathematical task without words or a word problem during four problem-solving sessions. Data were gathered from problem-solving sessions, in the form of session transcripts, written reflections, and interviews to determine how the reluctant problem solvers perceived the problems presented in each session. Participants' views of the problems before and after working were recorded and thick descriptions of the sessions including quotes from the participants are provided. Findings indicated that the reluctant problem solvers typically chose to work tasks that appeared to be easier, indicating their desire to have high self-efficacy before working tasks. Findings also shothat participants did not expect to struggle, a natural occurrence during problem solving, making them less likely to engage in and persevere with challenging tasks. Participants demonstrated strategies that helped them to avoid struggling when working word problems, however, they did not demonstrate similar strategies when solving mathematical tasks without words. Therefore, mathematical tasks without words hold potential for engaging students in problem solving and possibly encouraging them to persevere when problem solving.



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