Empirical findings show that many students do not achieve the level of a flexible and adaptive use of arithmetic computation strategies during the primary school years. Accordingly, educators suggest a reform-based instruction to improve students’ learning opportunities. In a study with 245 German third graders learning by textbooks with different instructional approaches, we investigate accuracy and adaptivity of students’ strategy use when adding and subtracting three-digit numbers. The findings indicate that students often choose efficient strategies provided they know any appropriate strategies for a given problem. The proportion of appropriate and efficient strategies students use differs with respect to the instructional approach of their textbooks. Learning with an investigative approach, more students use appropriate strategies, whereas children following a problem-solving approach show a higher competence in adaptive strategy choice. Based on these results, we hypothesize that different instructional approaches have different advantages and disadvantages regarding the teaching and learning of adaptive strategy use.
Aiso Heinze, Franziska Marschick and Frank Lipowsky have written an article that was published in the recent issue of ZDM. The article is entitled Addition and subtraction of three-digit numbers: adaptive strategy use and the influence of instruction in German third grade. Here is the abstract of their article: