Abstract for: A Test of Adults’ Linear Thinking in Non-Linear Math problems for Children

The psychology literature has documented a deep-rooted problem in children’s understanding of non-linear systems. They often apply linear reasoning in solving non-linear prob- lems (e.g., word problems involving areas or volumes). The system dynamics community has shown that this is not only a children’s problem; adults often respond linearly to non- linear problems. However, most demonstrations with adults generally involve more complex problems than those used with children. The current study demonstrates the diffi- culty of adult’s non-linear reasoning with simple problems used with children. We also explore how the linear thinking is applied improperly in non-linear mathematical problems. These results suggest that the misconceptions, habits, and beliefs that may start in early age remain in adulthood, and might influence many relevant decisions that adults make.