Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI) edition:15 location:Munich, Germany date:27 - 31st August 2013
This study analysed children’s use of mental computation strategies and the standard written algorithm in the domain of multi-digit subtraction, using the choice/no-choice method. Fifty-eight Flemish fourth-graders individually solved subtractions that either stimulated the use of mental
computation strategies or the standard written algorithm, in one choice and two no-choice conditions. In the choice condition, children could use their preferential strategy on each item. In the two no-choice conditions, they had to solve all items with mental computation and the standard
written algorithm, respectively. The results revealed that children applied the written algorithm very frequently and efficiently on multi-digit subtractions, even on subtractions that evoke mental computation. Furthermore,
children did not take into account the numerical characteristics of the items during the strategy selection process, but fitted their strategy choices flexibly to their
individual strategy accuracy and speed characteristics. We discuss the theoretical, instructional and methodological implications of these results.