Patterns of problem-solving in children's literacy and arithmetic


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Lee Farrington-Flint, Division of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK (e-mail:


Patterns of problem-solving among 5-to-7 year-olds' were examined on a range of literacy (reading and spelling) and arithmetic-based (addition and subtraction) problem-solving tasks using verbal self-reports to monitor strategy choice. The results showed higher levels of variability in the children's strategy choice across Years 1 and 2 on the arithmetic (addition and subtraction) than literacy-based tasks (reading and spelling). However, across all four tasks, the children showed a tendency to move from less sophisticated procedural-based strategies, which included phonological strategies for reading and spelling and counting-all and finger modelling for addition and subtraction, to more efficient retrieval methods from Years 1 to 2. Distinct patterns in children's problem-solving skill were identified on the literacy and arithmetic tasks using two separate cluster analyses. There was a strong association between these two profiles showing that those children with more advanced problem-solving skills on the arithmetic tasks also showed more advanced profiles on the literacy tasks. The results highlight how different-aged children show flexibility in their use of problem-solving strategies across literacy and arithmetical contexts and reinforce the importance of studying variations in children's problem-solving skill across different educational contexts.