How do kindergarteners solve different single-digit addition problem formats? We administered problems that differed solely on the basis of two dimensions: response type (approximate or exact), and stimulus type (nonsymbolic, i.e., dots, or symbolic, i.e., Arabic numbers). We examined how performance differs across these dimensions, and which cognitive mechanism (mental model, transcoding, or phonological storage) underlies performance in each problem format with respect to working memory (WM) resources and mental number line representations. As expected, nonsymbolic problem formats were easier than symbolic ones. The visuospatial sketchpad was the primary predictor of nonsymbolic addition. Symbolic problem formats were harder because they either required the storage and manipulation of quantitative symbols phonologically or taxed more WM resources than their nonsymbolic counterparts. In symbolic addition, WM and mental number line results showed that when an approximate response was needed, children transcoded the information to the nonsymbolic code. When an exact response was needed, however, they phonologically stored numerical information in the symbolic code. Lastly, we found that more accurate symbolic mental number line representations were related to better performance in exact addition problem formats, not the approximate ones. This study extends our understanding of the cognitive processes underlying children's simple addition skills.
Xenidou-Dervou, I., van der Schoot, M., & van Lieshout, E. C. D. M. (2015). Working memory and number line representations in single-digit addition: Approximate versus exact, nonsymbolic versus symbolic. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68(6), 1148-1167. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2014.977303