The pourpose of this study is to determine primary teacher education students' ability to use functions to solve problems containing a modelling dimension. This study was conducted with 51 first-year students at the Anadolu Univesity. Data was gathered by a questionnaire and analysed according to some categories of techniques. The results indicate that students have many difficulties to perceive functions as modelling tools. Some of these difficulties appear to be related to the way the concept is introduced at the high school. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.