Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Brian, Learning, Mathematics and Children

This week, we were asked in our Learning Theories class to conduct research on the topics of the brain and learning, information processing and problem solving methods during the learning process.  Because of my current position as a 4th grade Math, Science and Social Studies teacher; I wanted to connect this research to something I could use immediately.  So, I searched for research in these topics tied to math instruction in children under the age of 10.  There were some very interesting resources found through using Google. 
               The first article I found was through The Daily Mail titled “Now it all adds up!” by Leon Watson.  Here is the link to the article:
This article discusses how children under the age of 10 learn their math facts.  I found this article very intriguing because of the struggle I see firsthand with my 4th grade students with math fact mastery.  The children tested in the research were put into MRI machines and given basic math facts.  They would then look at what part of the brain was active while they were solving these problems.  Then a year later, they did the same thing to see what happens as the children get older.  The research showed that as the children got older, they used the areas of the brain for counting less and used the brains memory center more, the hippocampus.  This shows me the importance of building the children’s math fact ability while they are younger.  The article also showed that as we age into adult hood, the retrieval of simple math facts became almost automatic. 
               The second piece I found this week was a PBS website.  There was a documentary called “A Misunderstood Mind” and I found a link to the PBS website that summarizes parts of that documentary.  The website is broken into different subject areas and discusses how the brain operates in the different learning subjects.  There was a link to Mathematics and I learned lots about how children’s brains operate while learning math.  Here is the link the website:
I really enjoyed how this website was set up.  It gives you information on how the brain functions for different areas of mathematics.  Then at the end of each section, there is a little activity for you to “Try it Yourself.”  The one section I found most interesting was when they discussed the connection of Math and Memory.  There are different types of memory and discussed them individually.  Students use Factual memory when they are retrieving math facts, but they use procedural memory and active working memory when they are trying to recall how to complete multi-step problems.  This article shows me the importance of doing different types of math problems to make sure you are developing each part of the student’s memory.  Having the students do simple problems, math facts practice and multi-step problems will help them develop their memory skills to move through mathematics with success as the students get older. 

               Overall, this week has opened the door to my research into math instruction and the way children’s brains function during the process.  The door is just cracked though, I feel like there is so much out there for me to learn.  I’m hoping to spend the next few weeks continuing this research and adding some blogs to my RSS feed.  I would also like to bookmark articles connected to this research to share with my teammates at school. 

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