Fourth-Grade Students' Sensemaking during Multi-step Problem Solving

The purpose of this study was to investigate fourth-grade students’ sensemaking of a word problem. Sensemaking occurs when students connect their understanding of situations with existing knowledge. We investigated students’ sensemaking through inductive task analysis of their strategies and solutions to a problem that involved determining the difference between two quantities and number of groups within the task. This analysis provided useful themes about students’ strategy use across the sensemaking domains. Students exhibited three levels of sensemaking and many different strategies for solving the problem. Some strategies were more helpful to students in achieving a correct result to the problem. Findings suggest that sensemaking about problems involving differences and number of groups is difficult for many fourth-grade students. Among students who did make sense of the problem, those who used efficient strategies with more familiar operations tended to do better than those who used less efficient strategies or algorithms.

Matney, G., Bostic, J., Fox, M., Hicks, T., May, T., & Stone, G. (2022). Fourth-grade students' sensemaking during multi-step problem solving. Journal for Mathematical Behavior.