Numbers in action: individual differences and interactivity in mental arithmetic

Lisa G. Guthrie, Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


Previous research indicates that interactive arithmetic tasks may alleviate the deleterious impact of maths anxiety on arithmetic performance. Our aim here was to further test the impact of interactivity on maths-anxious individuals and those with poorer numeracy skills. In the experiment reported here participants completed sums in two interactivity contexts. In a low-interactivity condition, sums were completed with hands down. In a second, high-interactivity condition, participants used moveable number tokens. As anticipated, accuracy and efficiency were greater in the high compared to the low-interactivity condition. Correlational analyses indicated that maths anxiety, objective numeracy, measures of maths expertise and working memory were stronger predictors of performance in the low- than in the high-interactivity conditions. Interactivity transformed the deployment of arithmetic skills, improved performance, and reduced the gap between high- and low-ability individuals. These findings suggest that traditional psychometric efforts that identify the cognitive capacities and dispositions involved in mental arithmetic should take into account the degree of interactivity afforded by the task environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Processing
Issue number3
Early online date3 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Expertise
  • Interactivity
  • Maths anxiety
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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