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J Exp Child Psychol. 2012 Sep;113(1):78-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2012.04.014. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

The codevelopment of skill at and preference for use of retrieval-based processes for solving addition problems: individual and sex differences from first to sixth grades.

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


The ability to retrieve basic arithmetic facts from long-term memory contributes to individual and perhaps sex differences in mathematics achievement. The current study tracked the codevelopment of preference for using retrieval over other strategies to solve single-digit addition problems, independent of accuracy, and skilled use of retrieval (i.e., accuracy and reaction time [RT]) from first to sixth grades inclusive (N=311). Accurate retrieval in first grade was related to working memory capacity and intelligence, and it predicted a preference for retrieval in second grade. In later grades, the relation between skill and preference changed such that preference in one grade predicted accuracy and RT in the next grade as RT and accuracy continued to predict future gains in preference. In comparison with girls, boys had a consistent preference for retrieval over other strategies and had faster retrieval speeds, but the sex difference in retrieval accuracy varied across grades. Results indicate that ability influences early skilled retrieval, but both practice and skill influence each other in a feedback loop later in development and provide insights into the source of the sex difference in problem-solving approaches.

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