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J Exp Child Psychol. 2012 Sep;113(1):49-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2012.03.003. Epub 2012 Jun 12.

Independent contributions of the central executive, intelligence, and in-class attentive behavior to developmental change in the strategies used to solve addition problems.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Children's (N=275) use of retrieval, decomposition (e.g., 7=4+3 and thus 6+7=6+4+3), and counting to solve additional problems was longitudinally assessed from first grade to fourth grade, and intelligence, working memory, and in-class attentive behavior was assessed in one or several grades. The goal was to assess the relation between capacity of the central executive component of working memory, controlling for intelligence and in-class attentive behavior, and grade-related changes in children's use of these strategies. The predictor on intercept effects from multilevel models revealed that children with higher central executive capacity correctly retrieved more facts and used the most sophisticated counting procedure more frequently and accurately than their lower capacity peers at the beginning of first grade, but the predictor on slope effects indicated that this advantage disappeared (retrieval) or declined in importance (counting) from first grade to fourth grade. The predictor on slope effects also revealed that from first grade to fourth grade, children with higher capacity adopted the decomposition strategy more quickly than other children. The results remained robust with controls for children's sex, race, school site, speed of encoding Arabic numerals and articulating number words, and mathematics achievement in kindergarten. The results also revealed that intelligence and in-class attentive behavior independently contributed to children's strategy development.

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