In Singapore, 6-12 year-old students are taught to solve algebra word problems with a mix of arithmetic and pre-algebraic strategies; 13-17 year-olds are typically encouraged to replace these strategies with letter-symbolic algebra. We examined whether algebra problem-solving proficiency amongst beginning learners of letter-symbolic algebra is correlated with the ability to inhibit intrusions from the earlier arithmetic strategies. Similar to typical school practice in Singapore, we asked 14 year-old students (N = 157) to use only letter-symbolic algebra to solve 9 algebra word problems. After having controlled for algebraic knowledge, working memory, and intelligence, better inhibitory ability still predicted fewer arithmetic intrusions and higher problem solving accuracy. Path analysis revealed 2 types of inhibition. Inhibition-of-reified-processes predicted accuracy through arithmetic intrusions. Inhibition-of-recently-learned-associations predicted accuracy through intelligence. Findings suggest establishing pedagogical links between arithmetic and algebraic methods may facilitate students' transition to letter-symbolic algebra. Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
CitationKhng, K. H., & Lee, K. (2009). Inhibiting interference from prior knowledge: Arithmetic intrusions in algebra word problem solving. Learning and Individual Differences, 19(2), 262-268. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2009.01.004