Teaching that does not take working memory into account can have dramatic consequences. A full 80% of all children with reduced working memory capacity have inadequate progress in reading and mathematics. And studies connecting learning difficulties to working memory show that reduced working memory capacity is prevalent among children with learning difficulties.
Here, Professor Joni Holmes at the Center for Attention, Memory, and Learning at the University of Cambridge has done important work. The center welcomes children with learning difficulties without requiring them to have a specific diagnosis. Over the course of 4-5 hours, they go through a series of tests measuring cognitive abilities such as attention, episodic memory, executive function, phonological processing, non-verbal processing, and working memory capacity.
Memory and Learning
Furthermore, researchers use MRI to map white and gray brain tissue and how well different parts of the brain are connected. In one such study involving 530 children, 340 had no diagnosis. The results showed that it was possible to categorize the children into four groups, and three of these groups, which constituted approximately 75% of the children, had reduced working memory capacity. There is a strong correlation between working memory capacity and school performance.
Brain Mapping in Children with Learning Difficulties
Children with lower working memory than the average for their age group often experience reading and math difficulties and perform poorly in science. In fact, it is possible to predict with high certainty how students will perform in school by measuring working memory capacity. Those with low working memory have a significantly increased risk of not mastering the curriculum.
Working Memory Capacity and School Performance
Working memory capacity varies greatly from person to person and is not fully developed until around the age of 15. Therefore, adults can typically handle 2-3 times more information than children, which is about 4-7 units of information. Within each age group, there are significant variations. In a class of 8-year-olds, 3-4 students may have working memory similar to an average 13-year-old. At the same time, there are an equal number of students with working memory like an average 5-year-old. This means they can only remember 1-2 units at a time, while the class average is 3-5. To ensure that all students grasp the most important information you want to convey, it is crucial to consider working memory when teaching.
Make the children experts!
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For over 20 years, we have inspired over 500,000 children to explore the exciting world of science. The Scientist’s Calendar is a different kind of advent calendar filled with play and knowledge instead of candy and sugar. The calendar contains 24 pre-wrapped packages with magical gadgets, astonishing objects, and engaging experiments for curious children between the ages of six and twelve.