Understanding the Cognitive Processes of Mathematical Problem Posing: Evidence from Eye Movements

This study concerns the cognitive process of mathematical problem posing, conceptualized in three stages: understanding the task, constructing the problem, and expressing the problem. We used the eye tracker and think-aloud methods to deeply explore students’ behavior in these three stages of problem posing, especially focusing on investigating the influence of task situation format and mathematical maturity on students’ thinking. The study was conducted using a 2 × 2 mixed design: task situation format (with or without specific numerical information) × subject category (master’s students or sixth graders). Regarding the task situation format, students’ performance on tasks with numbers was found to be significantly better than that on tasks without numbers, which was reflected in the metrics of how well they understood the task and the complexity and clarity of the posed problems. In particular, students spent more fixation duration on understanding and processing the information in tasks without numbers; they had a longer fixation duration on parts involving presenting uncertain numerical information; in addition, the task situation format with or without numbers had an effect on students’ selection and processing of information related to the numbers, elements, and relationships rather than information regarding the context presented in the task. Regarding the subject category, we found that mathematical maturity did not predict the quantity of problems posed on either type of task. There was no significant main group difference found in the eye-movement metrics.

Zhang, L., Song, N., Wu, G., & Cai, J. (2023). Understanding the cognitive processes of mathematical problem posing: Evidence from eye movements. Educational Studies in Mathematics.