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The acquisition of problem solving competence : evidence from 41 countries that math and science education matters.

Scherer, R. and Beckmann, J.F. (2014) 'The acquisition of problem solving competence : evidence from 41 countries that math and science education matters.', Large-scale assessments in education., 2 . p. 10.


Background: On the basis of a ‘problem solving as an educational outcome’ point of view, we analyse the contribution of math and science competence to analytical problem-solving competence and link the acquisition of problem solving competence to the coherence between math and science education. We propose the concept of math-science coherence and explore whether society-, curriculum-, and school-related factors confound with its relation to problem solving. Methods: By using the PISA 2003 data set of 41 countries, we apply multilevel regression and confounder analyses to investigate these effects for each country. Results: Our results show that (1) math and science competence significantly contribute to problem solving across countries; (2) math-science coherence is significantly related to problem solving competence; (3) country-specific characteristics confound this relation; (4) math-science coherence is linked to capability under-utilisation based on science performance but less on math performance. Conclusions: In sum, low problem solving scores seem a result of an impeded transfer of subjectspecific knowledge and skills (i.e., under-utilisation of science capabilities in the acquisition of problem solving competence), which is characterised by low levels of math-science coherence.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Capability under-utilisation, Math-science coherence, Math education, Problem solving competence, Science education.
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Publisher statement:© Scherer and Beckmann; licensee Springer. 2014 This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Date accepted:25 November 2014
Date deposited:07 July 2015
Date of first online publication:10 December 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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