Following the Template: Transferring Modeling Skills to Nonstandard Problems
This study seeks to analyze how students apply a mathematical modeling skill that was previously learned by solving standard word problems to the solution of word problems with nonstandard contexts. During the course of an experiment involving 106 freshmen, we assessed how well they were able to transfer the mathematical modeling skill that is used to solve standard problems to the solution of nonstandard ones that had an analogous structure. The results of our research show that students had varying degrees of success applying the different stages of modeling depending on whether they were solving a familiar problem (involving near transfer) or one that had an unfamiliar context (involving far transfer): in cases of near transfer, students applied the template formally even though it did not align with the text of the new word problem, which complicated further interpretation. In cases of far transfer, students chose to solve the problem by using an ordinary method of selecting a solution by trial and error in preference to the use of modeling. Thus, the application of the modeling skill as a multistage process is complicated when solving nonstandard problems involving either near or far transfer.