Educational Studies in Mathematics vol:79 issue:3 pages:335-349
Subtractions of the type M−S=? can be solved by various strategies, including subtraction by addition. In this study, we investigated children’s use of subtraction by
addition by means of reaction time analyses. We presented 106 third to sixth graders with 32 large non-tie single-digit problems in both subtraction (12−9=.) and addition format (9+.=12).
We examined the fit of three regression models, which represented the consistent use of direct subtraction, of subtraction by addition and of flexibly switching between both strategies based on the relative size of the subtrahend. Findings revealed that children did not switch flexibly between the two strategies, as adults do, but that they rely on direct subtraction for problems presented in subtraction format and on subtraction by addition for problems in addition format.
We end with the major theoretical, methodological and educational implications of these results.