Specificity of children's arithmetic learning

Drew Walker, Daniel Bajic, Laura Mickes, Jung Kwak, Timothy C Rickard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Among adults, arithmetic training-transfer studies have documented a high degree of learning specificity. Provided that there is a delay of at least 1day between training and testing, performance gains do not transfer to untrained problems, nor do they transfer to complement operation-inverted problems (e.g., gains for 4+7=__ do not transfer to the complement subtraction problem, 11-4=__, or vice versa). Here we demonstrate the same degree of learning specificity among 6- to 11-year-old children. These results appear to rule out, for the current training paradigm, operation-level procedural learning as well as any variant of complement problem mediation that would predict transfer. Results are consistent with either or both of two types of learning: (a) item-level procedural learning and (b) a shift to memory-based performance as predicted by the elemental elements model. These results suggest a developmental pattern such that specificity of learning among children is similar to that among adults. Educational implications are noted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-74
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Developmental (Psychological Science)


  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Educational Measurement
  • Generalization (Psychology)
  • Humans
  • Mathematics/education
  • Problem Solving
  • Transfer (Psychology)


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