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When 1 + 1 = 5: Dyscalculia and Working Memory

Jacob’s moth­er writes that ‘Jacob, 10-years-old, still strug­gles with num­ber bonds to 10. Learn­ing to tell the time is still slow – he has not mas­tered half-past. Although he man­aged to learn his 5x tables because we prac­ticed all sum­mer, this has now gone’.

Jacob has dyscal­cu­lia, a math dis­abil­i­ty where stu­dents strug­gle to learn or under­stand math­e­mat­ics. Stu­dents Read the rest of this entry »

7 Key Lessons from the 2011 SharpBrains Summit: Retooling Brain Health for the 21st Century

Sharp­Brains served a high­ly thought-pro­vok­ing and infor­ma­tive 2011 Vir­tu­al Sum­mit on Retool­ing Brain Health for the 21st Cen­tu­ry over 3 days, March 30th — April 1st. Here is a brief dis­til­la­tion of the large num­ber (40+) of pre­sen­ta­tions.

1.The range and vari­ety of pre­sen­ta­tions left no room for doubt that the dig­i­tal brain health mar­ket is con­cerned with much more than improv­ing cog­ni­tive per­for­mance and preventing/treating dis­ease. There is a need for many tools in each of the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories: Read the rest of this entry »

10% Students may have working memory problems: Why does it matter?

Work­ing mem­o­ry is our abil­i­ty to store and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion for a brief time. It is typ­i­cal­ly mea­sured by dual-tasks, where the indi­vid­ual has to remem­ber an item while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­cess­ing a some­times unre­lat­ed piece of infor­ma­tion. A wide­ly used work­ing mem­o­ry task is the read­ing span task where the indi­vid­ual reads a sen­tence, ver­i­fies it, and then recalls the final word. Indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in work­ing mem­o­ry per­for­mance are close­ly relat­ed to a range of aca­d­e­m­ic skills such as read­ing, spelling, com­pre­hen­sion, and math­e­mat­ics. Cru­cial­ly, there is emerg­ing research that work­ing mem­o­ry pre­dicts learn­ing out­comes inde­pen­dent­ly of IQ. One expla­na­tion for the impor­tance of work­ing mem­o­ry in aca­d­e­m­ic attain­ment is that because it appears to be rel­a­tive­ly unaf­fect­ed by envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences, such as parental edu­ca­tion­al lev­el and finan­cial back­ground, it mea­sures a student’s capac­i­ty to acquire knowl­edge rather than what they have already learned.

How­ev­er lit­tle is known about the con­se­quences of low work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty per se, inde­pen­dent of oth­er asso­ci­at­ed learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. In par­tic­u­lar, it is not known either what pro­por­tion of stu­dents with low work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ties has sig­nif­i­cant learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties or what their behav­ioral char­ac­ter­is­tics are. The aim of a recent study pub­lished in Child Devel­op­ment (ref­er­ence below) was to pro­vide the first sys­tem­at­ic large-scale exam­i­na­tion of the cog­ni­tive and behav­ioral char­ac­ter­is­tics of school-aged stu­dents who have been iden­ti­fied sole­ly on the basis of very low work­ing mem­o­ry scores.

In screen­ing of over 3000 school-aged stu­dents in main­stream schools, 1 in 10 was iden­ti­fied as hav­ing work­ing mem­o­ry dif­fi­cul­ties. There were sev­er­al key find­ings regard­ing their cog­ni­tive skills. The first is that the major­i­ty of them per­formed below age-expect­ed lev­els in read­ing and math­e­mat­ics. This sug­gests that Read the rest of this entry »

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