The Obligatory Activation of Practiced Complex Multiplication Facts and What it Tells Us About Models of Arithmetic Processing


  • Loel Tronsky


Three experiments were conducted in which adults practiced complex multiplication problems (e.g., 4 x 17). In Experiments 1 and 2, after practice participants completed a number-matching task in which two digits (cues) were followed by a single digit (probe) and had to determine whether the probe matched either of the cues. In simple arithmetic (e.g., 4 x 3), when the probe is the product of the cues (12), participants are slower/more error prone when determining whether there is a match. Results of Experiment 1 extended this effect to complex multiplication. In Experiment 2, participants practiced problems with the larger operand first (e.g., 17 x 4) or with the smaller operand first (e.g., 4 x 17). The number-matching interference effect from Experiment 1 was replicated, and was equal across the two groups whether cues were presented in their practiced or non-practiced order. Experiment 3 was conducted to determine if two additional simple multiplication effects, consistency and relatedness, could be documented for complex multiplication. After practice, in a verification task (4 x 13 = 56?) it was found that when presented answers shared a digit with the decade digit of the correct answer (consistency) or were a correct answer to another practiced problem (relatedness), participants rejected answers more slowly and/or less accurately. Together, findings from the three experiments support arithmetic models that posit that commuted pairs are not represented in long-term memory independently and that posit representations of two-digit multiplication answers are decomposed into decades and units during arithmetic processing.