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To add or to multiply? An investigation of the role of preference in children's solutions of word problems

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Learning and Instruction Volume 61, Number 1, ISSN 0959-4752 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


Previous research has shown that upper primary school children frequently erroneously solve additive word problems multiplicatively, while younger children frequently erroneously solve multiplicative word problems additively. It has been suggested that children's preference for additive or multiplicative relations explains these errors, besides their lacking skills, but this claim has not been tested empirically yet. Therefore, we administered four test instruments (a word problem test, a preference test, and two tests measuring additive and multiplicative computation and discrimination skill) to 246 third to sixth graders. Previous research results on errors in word problems, as well as on preference were replicated and systematized. Further, they were extended by explaining this erroneous word problem solving behavior by preference, for those children who unmistakably had acquired the necessary computation and discrimination skills. This finding provides strong evidence for the unique additional role of children's preference in erroneous additive or multiplicative word problem solving behavior.


Degrande, T., Verschaffel, L. & Van Dooren, W. (2019). To add or to multiply? An investigation of the role of preference in children's solutions of word problems. Learning and Instruction, 61(1), 60-71. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved May 7, 2021 from .

This record was imported from Learning and Instruction on March 15, 2019. Learning and Instruction is a publication of Elsevier.

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