Understanding and Using Principles of Arithmetic: Operations Involving Negative Numbers

Cognitive Science 32 (2):445-457 (2008)
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Abstract

Previous work has investigated adults' knowledge of principles for arithmetic with positive numbers (Dixon, Deets, & Bangert, 2001). The current study extends this past work to address adults' knowledge of principles of arithmetic with a negative number, and also investigates links between knowledge of principles and problem representation. Participants (N = 44) completed two tasks. In the Evaluation task, participants rated how well sets of equations were solved. Some sets violated principles of arithmetic and others did not. Participants rated non‐violation sets higher than violation sets for two different principles for subtraction with a negative number. In the Word Problem task, participants read word problems and set up equations that could be used to solve them. Participants who displayed greater knowledge of principles of arithmetic with a negative number were more likely to set up equations that involved negative numbers. Thus, participants' knowledge of arithmetic principles was related to their problem representations.

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