Test your own working memory!

It’s difficult to grasp how critical working memory actually is for young children. I had an “aha” moment when I did the test below. If you want to feel how narrow this bottleneck in the brain actually is, you’ll need a stopwatch and pen and paper.

Then, do as follows (NOTE! It’s important that you go through one step at a time without reading through the entire test first.) Here is a list of words. You now have one minute to remember as many of these words as you can. Then, write down the words you remember. Do not read further until you have completed this task!


Now, check how many you got right. There is a high probability that you remembered many more than seven, perhaps as many as 12-15. But were some of your memories false? Did you remember, for example, “needle” or “sleep”? Many people do, and it’s because the brain stores things that are related in a sort of pattern.

Storage pattern

If we evoke a part of the pattern, the rest tends to follow. So when we read “drowse,” “drowse,” and “snore,” it’s easy to think we read “sleep.” The same thing may have happened when you read “thread” and “needle.” The only thing missing was “sew.” The words you remembered were retrieved from your working memory.

Information is stored in multiple places

There are several areas in the brain that create this memory, and together, they give us the ability to handle four to seven pieces of information at a time. When you managed to remember more, it was because many of the words were already familiar to you. They were already stored in your long-term memory, and working memory and long-term memory worked together.

So the test shows the following: What belongs together is stored together in the brain and is collected as one piece of information. Therefore, it’s easier to keep track of many things at once when what we’re thinking about is familiar. Now, take a new test. You should perform it just like the previous one, but now try to remember these words. Again, you have only one minute to memorize the words before you start writing them down without looking at them. Do not read further until you have completed this task!


If you don’t know much about chemistry or biochemistry, there’s a good chance you felt quite overwhelmed and only remembered two to five words. In that case, you got to experience how our brain feels when it needs to learn something completely new and unfamiliar.

Limitations of working memory

As mentioned, working memory has a small capacity, and when it’s full, we’re helpless. Many children experience this in the classroom every day. When working memory is overloaded, children become helpless and give up. Many of the math books in school are full of text, illustrations, and countless challenges on every page. Children are overwhelmed by just taking a glance at the pages and never get the opportunity to focus on one skill at a time. Thus, it becomes challenging, if not impossible, for children to learn anything.More about working memory

More about working memory

More about working memory As parents, we want to do what we can to help our children. In the book “Your Smart Child,” I explain how children’s brains work and develop, and what steps you can take to stimulate your child’s brain in the right way. This will provide the child with the best possible foundation for learning to read, write, and do math – but also for developing their creativity, improving their motor skills, and, most importantly, for relaxation and rest. You will receive many practical tips and exercises that will create a love of learning and a sense of accomplishment.

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