We compared the working memory requirements of two forms of mental addition: exact calculation (e.g., 63 + 49 = 112) and approximation (e.g., 63 + 49 is about 110). In two experiments, participants solved two-digit addition problems (e.g., 63 + 49) alone and in combination with a working memory task (i.e., remembering four consonants). In Experiment 1, participants chose an answer from two alternatives (e.g., exact: 112 vs. 122; approximate: 110 vs. 140). In Experiment 2, participants responded verbally with exact or approximate answers. In both experiments, the working memory load impaired exact and approximate addition performance, but exact addition was affected more. Load also impaired performance on problems with a carry operation in the units (e.g., 28 + 59 or 76 + 57) more than on problems without a unit carry (e.g., 24 + 53 or 76 + 52). These results identify the carry operation as the source of the working memory demands in multidigit addition.

European Journal of Cognitive Psychology
Carleton University

Kalaman, D.A. (Darren A.), & LeFevre, J.-A. (2007). Working memory demands of exact and approximate addition. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19(2), 187–212. doi:10.1080/09541440600713445