Arithmetic

Wechsler (1958) included a test of arithmetical reasoning in an adult intelligence battery because such tests correlate highly with general intelligence; are easily created and standardized; are deemed by most adults as "worthy of a grownup" (p. 69); have been "used as a rough and ready measure of intelligence" (p. 69) prior to the advent of psychometrics; and have "long been recognized as a sign of mental alertness" (p. 69). Such tests are flawed by the impact on test scores of attention span, temporary emotional reactions, and of educational and occupational attainment. As Wechsler notes: "Clerks, engineers and businessmen usually do well on arithmetic tests, while housewives, day laborers, and illiterates are often penalized by them" (p. 69). However, he believed that the advantages of an arithmetical reasoning test far outweighed the negative aspects. He pointed out that adults "may be embarrassed by their inability to do certain problems, but they almost never look upon the questions as unfair or inconsequential" (p. 69). He took much care in developing the specific set of items for the W-B I and the WAIS and believed that his particular approach to constructing the Arithmetic subtest was instrumental in the task's appeal to adults. Wechsler constructed items dealing with everyday, practical situations such that the solutions generally require computational skills taught in grade school or acquired "in the course of day-to-day transactions" (p. 70), and the responses avoid "verbalization or reading difficulties" (p. 69). Whereas the WISC-R and W-B I involve the reading of a few problems by the subject, all items on the WAIS, WAIS-R, and WAIS-III are read aloud by the examiner. Bonus points for quick, perfect performance are not given to children on the WISC-R, but Wechsler considered the ability to respond rapidly to relatively difficult arithmetic problems to be a pertinent aspect of adult intelligence; bonus points are given to two items on the W-B I Arithmetic subtest, to four items on the WAIS task, to five items on WAIS-R Arithmetic, and to two items on WAIS-III Arithmetic.

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