This study investigates approaches, strategies and models used by prospective primary school teachers in responding to real-world problems. The research was carried out with 82 participants. Data were collected through written-exam and semi-structured interviews; and they were analysed using content and discourse analysis methods. Most of the prospective teachers did not pay attention to the realities of the contexts in which the problems are situated. Most of them displayed non-realistic approaches excluding their real world knowledge and experiences from their solutions. Many participants tended to use rules and procedures in a straightforward way leading to failures at interpreting salient aspects of the problem situations. Majority of the participants lacked the ability to use appropriate strategies that could scaffold their realistic considerations. Some constructed models of the situations; nevertheless, many of them lacked the ability to use these instruments as a conceptual tool to identify key aspects of the problem contexts.