In the present research, we provide empirical evidence for the process of symbolic integration of number associations, focusing on the development of simple addition (e.g., 5 + 3 = 8), subtraction (e.g., 5 – 3 = 2), and multiplication (e.g., 5 x 3 = 15). Canadian children were assessed twice, in grade 2 and grade 3 (N = 244; 55% girls). All families were English-speaking, and parent education levels ranged from high school to postgraduate, with a median of community college. In grade 2, children completed general cognitive tasks (i.e., receptive vocabulary, working memory, nonverbal reasoning, and inhibitory control). In both grades, children completed single-digit addition and complementary subtraction problems. In grade 3, they completed single-digit multiplication problems and measures of applied mathematics, specifically, word-problem solving, algebra, and measurement. We found that addition and subtraction were reciprocally related (controlling for cognitive skills). Subtraction fluency predicted multiplication in grade 3, whereas addition fluency did not. In grade 3, both subtraction and multiplication fluency were predictors of applied mathematics, with multiplication partially mediating the relation between subtraction and applied mathematics performance. These findings support the view that learning arithmetic associations is a hierarchical process. As students practice each new skill, individual differences reflect the integration of the novel component into the developing associative network.
|Publication status||Accepted - 28 Apr 2021|