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Max Your Working Memory with Brain Games and Teasers

Draw the let­ter J on your men­tal sketch­pad. Now draw the let­ter D. Turn it 90 degrees to the left and put it in top of the J. What does this shape resem­ble?

An umbrel­la, of course! You’ve just used your work­ing mem­o­ry. Our work­ing mem­o­ry is a cru­cial part of the mem­o­ry sys­tem, not least because it helps us to fig­ure things out men­tal­ly.

Tem­po­rary work­space
Not only can we store infor­ma­tion in our short-term mem­o­ry, but we can also manip­u­late it. This is why short-term mem­o­ry is some­times also called work­ing mem­o­ry. Work­ing mem­o­ry is our tem­po­rary work­space. We use it in every­day tasks rang­ing from dri­ving (where you need to keep in mind the loca­tion of the cars around you as you nav­i­gate through traf­fic), to prepar­ing a bud­get (where you need to keep in mind one spend­ing cat­e­go­ry while work­ing on anoth­er), to writ­ing a let­ter (where you need to keep in mind all you want to say while devel­op­ing each point a sen­tence at a time).

Active Think­ing
Increas­ing or main­tain­ing one’s work­ing mem­o­ry abil­i­ty has enor­mous ben­e­fits in life. It could be com­pared to boost­ing the pro­cess­ing capac­i­ty of a com­put­er. Work­ing mem­o­ry is where you do your active think­ing and prob­lem solv­ing.  So, a well func­tion­ing work­ing mem­o­ry is key to suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ing many com­plex activ­i­ties that require to rea­son, under­stand and learn. Try the exer­cis­es oppo­site to use your men­tal work­space in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.

Did You Know: Work­ing Mem­o­ry vs IQ
Exer­cise Your Work­ing Mem­o­ry

Chil­dren at school need their work­ing mem­o­ry for var­i­ous things, such as when doing maths, analysing infor­ma­tion, or even when writ­ing down home­work instruc­tions. Research shows that work­ing mem­o­ry scores at age 5, rather than ID scores, are a bet­ter indi­ca­tor of aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment when old­er (at age 11). This is good news, as work­ing mem­o­ry can be mea­sured more eas­i­ly and can also be improved.

1. Men­tal Rota­tion
When try­ing to find the right jig­saw puz­zle piece, you often men­tal­ly rotate the ones you see on the table to “see” in your work­ing men­tal space whether they would fit. Let’s prac­tice men­tal rota­tion here. In each box to the left, study each part of the top fig­ure for 5 sec­onds. The cov­er it up and cir­cle the fig­ure in the bot­tom part that matched it. You will have to men­tal­ly rotate the fig­ures to find the answer.

(Solu­tions below)

2. Back­ward spelling
You are com­pil­ing a school quiz and one of the ques­tions involves spelling sev­er­al words back­ward. Before ask­ing the pupils to take part, you decide to try it your­self. Work on one word at a time. Read the word once, then cov­er it up and spell it back­ward.



- This is an Excerpt from Max Your Mem­ory (DK, ©2012), by Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, PhD in Cog­ni­tive Psy­chol­ogy. Dr. Mich­e­lon is an Adjunct Fac­ulty at Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, she has writ­ten many sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles, blogs reg­u­lar­ly about brain fit­ness and brain health.


Men­tal Rota­tion: Solu­tions
Box 1: 1st fig­ure on the left
Box 2: 3rd fig­ure on the right
Box 3: 3rd fig­ure on the right


–> Click here to enjoy many more brain teasers and games for kids and adults alike.

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