Solving single-digit subtraction and addition problems is associated with left and right shifts of attention in adults. Here, we explored the development of these spatial shifts in children from the third to fifth grade. In two experiments, children solved single-digit addition (Experiments 1 and 2), subtraction (Experiment 1), and multiplication (Experiment 2) problems in which operands and the arithmetic sign were shown sequentially. Although the first operand and the arithmetic sign were presented on the center of a screen, the second operand was presented either in the left or the right visual field. In Experiment 1, we found that subtraction problems were increasingly associated with a leftward bias by the fifth grade, such that problem solving was facilitated when the second operand was in the left visual field. In Experiment 2, we found that children can also associate addition problems with the right side of space by the fourth grade. No developmental increase in either leftward or rightward bias was observed for multiplication problems. These attentional shifts might be due to the increasing reliance on calculation procedures that involve mental movements to the left or right of a sequential representation of numbers during subtraction and addition.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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