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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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