Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Joel Amidon

Relational Format



This study explores third grade students’ mathematical understandings by examining the strategies they generate to solve subtraction word problems. Ten students proficient with the standard subtraction and addition algorithms were individually observed and interviewed while using as many different methods as they could to solve three multi-digit subtraction and addition word problems. The students were found to rely excessively on algorithms and class-taught methods, even when inappropriate, and were divided in the sophistication of their modeling strategies, with half only using direct modeling with ones, while four successfully modeled with grouping. The creativity of the strategies used by some students, the prevalence of direct modeling with ones, and the misconceptions of many students provide insight into ways elementary teachers can promote students’ present and future mathematical success.



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