The role of inhibitory control in strategy change: The case of linear measurement.

Elementary school students often lack a conceptual understanding of linear measurement, which is revealed by their poor performance when the object to be measured is not aligned with the start of the ruler. Instead of correctly counting the units that correspond to the object (e.g., inches or centimeters), children often use 1 of 2 incorrect strategies: reading off the number that corresponds to the end of the object (the least-mature, read-off strategy) and counting the hash marks that flank the object (a more mature, but still incorrect, hash-mark strategy). We hypothesized that shifting to a more mature linear measurement strategy would require the ability to inhibit less-mature prepotent responses, such as read-off and hash-mark responses. In the present study, we predicted that children with better inhibitory control would be more likely to improve in their linear measurement strategy use over one year. Participants (n = 317) were in 1st through 3rd grades when they completed a linear measurement task that required measuring objects that were not aligned with the start of the ruler; they also completed an inhibitory control task and control measures (visuospatial working memory, arithmetic calculations, and number line estimation). One year later, they repeated the linear measurement task. Students with higher initial inhibitory control were more likely to adopt a more mature strategy over time. Moreover, inhibitory control was a significant predictor of strategy improvement over and above other cognitive measures, including visuospatial working memory and arithmetic calculation skill. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)