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Solving subtraction problems flexibly by means of indirect addition

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Background. Subtraction problems of the type a - b = ? can be flexibly solved by various strategies, including the indirect addition (IA) strategy 'how much do I have to add to b to get a ?' Although rational task analyses indicate that IA is highly efficient especially on subtractions with small differences between the integers, little research has been done on the frequency and efficiency of this strategy on different types of subtractions. Aim. The present contribution aims at deepening our understanding of the occurrence and development of the IA strategy, by summarizing the major results of several recent and closely related studies done by the authors on this issue, in relation to other relevant research by others. Results. The review reveals that young adults frequently and efficiently apply IA on different types of symbolic multi-digit subtractions, whereas children hardly do so. However, children's (efficient) use of IA can be enhanced through instruction that pays systematic attention at this strategy. Discussion. The review ends with a discussion of the major theoretical, methodological, and educational implications of the results.

Language: English


Publication date: March 1, 2010

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