5 Ways Kids Use Working Memory During the Learning Process

As we all know, working memory is crucial to learning. Without it, learners would not be able to remember what they have been taught from one moment to the next. This would make the learning acquisition process null and void, as students would not be able to grasp foundational concepts and use them to learn more complex ones.

Still not convinced that our working memory is crucial to learning? Here are five ways kids utilize working memory to learn.

  1. Accessing information

There are two kinds of working memory: auditory memory and visual-spatial memory. Think of the skills used in making a movie. Auditory memory records what you’re hearing, and visual-spatial memory captures what you’re viewing. That is where working memory’s similarity with making a video diverge.

As you make a video, visual and auditory information is stored and recalled when you need to access the content. You don’t need to pay attention to what when you’re filming. In contrast, working memory isn’t just stored for use on some future date and time. It has to be accessed and retrieved immediately—even as new info arrives and needs to be incorporated.

Imagine an educator reads a word problem in math class. Kids need to keep all the numbers in their head, figure out what operation to utilize, and create a written math problem simultaneously.

Kids with poor working memory skills have difficulty grabbing and holding on to that incoming information. This means they have less content to work with when they’re performing a task or assignment.

In math class, they may understand distinct kinds of calculations. They run into trouble with word problems. It isn’t easy to listen for clue words that indicate which operation to utilize while at the same time remembering the numbers that need to be plugged into the equation.

  1. Remembering Instructions

Kids rely on incoming information and information stored in working memory to do an activity. If they have poor working memory skills, this isn’t easy to do. This can make it challenging to follow multi-step directions. Kids with poor working memory skills have trouble keeping in mind what comes next while doing what comes now. For instance, your kid may not be able to mentally “go back” and recall what sentence the educator wanted to be written down while also trying to remember how to spell out the words in that sentence.

  1. Paying Attention

The section of the brain that governs working memory is also responsible for focus and concentration. Working memory helps kids remember what they need to focus on. For example, doing a long division problem. Your kid needs working memory to come up with the answer and concentrate on all of the steps involved in getting there.

Kids with poor working memory skills have trouble remaining on task to get to the result. You could think of it as the learning equivalent of walking into a room and forgetting what you came in to get.

  1. Learning to Read

Working memory governs many of the skills kids used to learn to read. Auditory working memory helps kids remember the sounds letters make, helping them learn to sound out new words. Visual working memory helps kids recognize those words and identify them throughout the rest of a sentence.

When working efficiently, these skills keep kids from having to sound out every word they see. This helps them become fluent readers. Learning to read isn’t an easy process for kids with poor working memory skills.

  1. Learning Math

Solving math problems depends on several skills that build on one another, like building blocks. The block at the bottom—the essential one in the stack—is identifying and reproducing patterns. The next block’s foundation is seeing patterns in numbers to solve and remember basic math facts.

Kids build up to storing information regarding a word problem in their head; then they utilize that information to create a number sentence to solve the problem. This leads to the ability to remember mathematical formulas.

What keeps learning going is remembering, sequence, and visualizing information, all of which can be difficult for a kid with poor working memory skills.

Concluding thoughts

Having a poor working memory can create obstacles to learning. However, you can get around these obstacles. You can use working memory boosters like playing cards, chess, or other board games. With help from you and other educators at school, your kid can build up working memory skills, so learning is less of a struggle.

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