How does task switching affect arithmetic strategy use in children with low mathematics achievement? Evidence from computational estimation

  • Hongxia Li
  • Xiaoteng Hua
  • Yalin Yang
  • Bijuan Huang
  • Jiwei SiEmail author


Although an increasing number of studies have suggested that students with low mathematics achievement (LMA) tend to perform worse in arithmetic strategy use than children with typical development, the potential reasons remain unclear. Accordingly, the current study investigated the potential impact of task switching on strategy use for children with LMA in computational estimation. In order to determine whether the differences in strategy use by children with LMA were due to a developmental delay or a developmental defect, 21 sixth-graders with LMA, 20 sixth-grader age-matched normal students (AM), and 21 fifth-grade math achievement–matched normal students (MM) were selected. The combination of choice/no-choice method and switching paradigm was employed. Results showed that task switching had significant effects on rounding-down strategy in the strategy execution condition for all groups. However, its effect on rounding-up strategy was significant only for the LMA group. In addition, the AM group outperformed significantly the LMA and MM groups on strategy choice, but the latter two groups did not significantly differ. These results suggest that strategy switch costs were influenced by participants and strategy characteristics. Moreover, poor performance of strategy choice in LMA children was likely due to a developmental delay rather than a defect.


Low mathematics achievement Task switching Computational estimation Strategy execution Strategy choice 



We thank the children who participated in this research, and Xiaoyu Liu, Changzhi Wu, and Xichao Zhu for helping with the language.


This work was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (31371048) and Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China (18YJA190014).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyShandong Normal UniversityJinanChina
  2. 2.Jinglun Primary SchoolJinanChina

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