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The present study investigates adults' use of addition to solve two-digit subtractions. Inspired by research on single-digit arithmetic, we first examined regression models in which different problem characteristics predicted participants' reaction times. Second, we compared performance on two-digit subtractions presented in 2 presentation formats, i.e., the standard subtraction format (81-37=.) and an addition format (37+.=81). Both methods lead to the conclusion that the participants switched between direct subtraction and subtraction by addition depending on the relative size of the subtrahend: If the subtrahend was smaller than the difference, direct subtraction was mainly used; if the subtrahend was larger than the difference, subtraction by addition was the dominant strategy. However, this performance pattern was only observed when the distance between the subtrahend and the difference was large; when the subtrahend and the difference were close to each other, there was no subtrahend-dependent selection of direct subtraction vs. subtraction by addition. These data indicate that theoretical models of people's strategy choices in subtraction should include the relative size of the subtrahend as an important factor in the strategy selection process.
Centre for Instructional Psychology and Technology, K.U.Leuven, Belgium.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Acta psychologica
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