Solving algebra word problems: The roles of working memory and the model method

Kerry LEE, Swee Fong NG

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although students in Singapore compare favourably with their international peers in mathematical performance, like elsewhere, there are significant individual differences in performance. In this chapter, we describe findings from a programme of research that focused on the role of working memory and higher cognitive capabilities on mathematical performance. Findings from two large scale behavioural studies suggest that the role of working memory may be domain-general and affects performance in both literacy and algebraic word problem solving. Amongst the various components of problem solving, identifying and understanding the quantitative relationships amongst protagonists in word problems are particularly resource intensive. Aspects of these findings are supported by findings from a functional neuroimaging study, which also shows that symbolic algebra is more demanding of working memory resources than is the "model method". Copyright © 2009 by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMathematics education: The Singapore journey
EditorsKhoon Yoong WONG, Peng Yee LEE, Berinderjeet KAUR, Pui Yee FOONG, Swee Fong NG
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing
ISBN (Print)9789812833754
Publication statusPublished - 2009




Lee, K., & Ng, S. F. (2009). Solving algebra word problems: The roles of working memory and the model method. In K. Y. Wong, P. Y. Lee, B. Kaur, P. Y. Foong, & S. F. Ng (Eds.), Mathematics education: The Singapore journey (pp. 204-226). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing.


  • Working memory
  • Individual differences
  • Model method
  • Algebraic word problem
  • IQ