Sex differences in mental strategies for single-digit addition in the first years of school

Pernille B. Sunde, Peter Sunde, Judy Sayers

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Strategy use in single-digit addition is an indicator of young children’s numeracy comprehension. We investigated Danish primary students’ use of strategies in single-digit addition with interviewbased assessment of how they solved 36 specific single-digit addition problems, categorised as either ‘error’, ‘counting’, ‘direct retrieval’ or ‘derived facts’. The proportional use of each strategy was analysed as multi-level functions of school age and sex. In a first study (260 interviews, 147 students) we found decreasing use of counting and increasing use of direct retrieval and derived facts through years 1–4, girls using counting substantially more and the other two strategies substantially less than boys, equal to more than 2 years’ development. Similar results appeared in a subsequent study (155 interviews, 83 students), suggesting that the pattern is pervasive in Danish primary schools. Finally, we ask whether sex differences in strategy use is generally underreported since many studies do not explicitly address them.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Psychology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)82-102
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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