Preschoolers' understanding of subtraction-related principles

Arthur J. Baroody, Meng Lung Lai, Xia Li, Alison E. Baroody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little research has focused on an informal understanding of subtractive negation (e.g., 3- 3 = 0) and subtractive identity (e.g., 3- 0 = 3). Previous research indicates that preschoolers may have a fragile (i.e., unreliable or localized) understanding of the addition-subtraction inverse principle (e.g., 2 + 1- 1 = 2). Recognition of a small collection's cardinal value and computational experience, particularly with subtractive negation, may play a key role in the construction of an understanding of inversion. Testing with eighty 3 to 7 year olds revealed that most children demonstrated a reliable and general understanding of subtractive negation and identity at 4 years of age. In contrast, such an understanding of the inverse principle was not achieved by most children until 6 years of age and was preceded by recognition of two and three and an understanding of subtractive negation and identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalMathematical Thinking and Learning
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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