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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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