Students’ errors in solving linear equation word problems: Case study of a Ghanaian senior high school
The study examined errors students make in solving linear equation word problems with a view to expose the nature of these errors and to make suggestions for classroom teaching. A diagnostic test comprising 10 linear equation word problems, was administered to a sample (n=130) of senior high school first year Home Economics and General Arts students in a senior high school in the Central Region of Ghana. The errors students made were identified based on the modified Newman Error Hierarchical levels (NEAL), which comprise reading, comprehension, transformation, process skills and encoding errors. The results revealed that majority (60%) of the students attempted most of the questions with a few (2%) arriving at the correct answer which implies students have difficulties in tackling linear equation word problems. It revealed that about 75% of the students made comprehension errors; 86% made transformation errors which occurred during the translation of the statement to algebraic form; 84% made process skills errors which occurred during computation process, and finally 86% made encoding errors which occurred at the final stages of the work. The proportion of students reaching the encoding level was very few (< 30%). In conclusion, it can be argued from the results that students’ errors in solving linear equation word problems are due largely to their inability to comprehend and interpret the sentences in other to proceed to the process and encoding skills. Recommendations are made for supporting senior high school mathematics teachers in in-service education programmes to increase their efficacy in teaching linear equation word problems.
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