As teachers, one of our primary goals is to educate, allowing a child to take the information you have taught and apply it to their life. One issue is the retention of conceptual knowledge. I’m sure we can all relate where someone mentions an aspect of maths or science and we know that we have learnt it before, yet we cannot remember. Rosenberg-Lee et al. (2018) investigates how a cognitive training programme (specifically used for mathematical learning) affects the neurobiology of 7-8 year olds over 1.2 years.
What parts of the brain were they looking at?
They cite how mathematical learning involves a wide range of neurological processes as cognitions involved shift continuously. For example, a reasoning problem could make your brain use memory retrieval knowledge as well as aspects of language to comprehend the logically sequence of the problem.
Various studies have found the hippocampal area to associated with long-term memory retrieval involved with mathematical calculations. Additionally, an increased engagement of the angular gyrus, in the posterior inferior parietal lobe, during arithmetic fact retrieval.
Rosenberg-Lee et al. (2018) investigated how a cognitive-based short-term training programme would alter hippocampal functional responses and connectivity in typically developing children.
TED Ed – Showing how we form and lose memories:
How did they do it and what did they find out?
8-9 year olds were recruited from a variety schools in the San Francisco Bay Area who had no history of psychiatric or neurological illness. These participants underwent a variety of achievement tests to match participants for a reliable and valid result. After this, all children went for an MRI Scan along with a strategy assessment. From this, the children were split into two groups: 19 children in a training group for 8 weeks and 15 children in a control group (no contact). After a period of time, the same children had an MRI Scan along with a strategy assessment again, completing the pre-post-test experiment.
They found the training group had increased left anterior hippocampus regions compared to the previous test as well as increased activity in the anterior hippocamp area – these were significant to the training group as no changes were detected in the control group.
The team concluded that they were able to elucidate the mechanisms of cognitive skill acquisition by characterising the changes in brain response and connectivity which accompany an eight week training programme. They found pivotal evidence between the effects of short-term training and long-term development changes over a 1.2 year interval.
How does this help me as a teacher?
For teachers, this demonstrates the long-term impact of neurobiological change with a cognitive-based pedagogy. Although this study focuses on maths, a wide range (as discussed on previous blog posts) of strategies can influence hippocampal engagement over time. These were compared against normal schooling participants.
Iuculano, T., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Richardson, J., Tenison, C., Fuchs, L., Supekar, K., & Menon, V. (2015). Cognitive tutoring induces widespread neuroplasticity and remediates brain function in children with mathematical learning disabilities. Nature Communications, 6(8453). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms9453