The scientists scanned the kids' brain to study how they were able to transition from counting to their fingers to simply answer a question related to a simple addition. They repeated the study a year later and did the same experiment in adolescents and adults. The results of the study are:
- At some point kids makes the transition from counting from their fingers to automatically answer a question related to a simple addition. If they make this transition well their performance in the future learning of math will improve.
- Older kids are able to do the simple addition quicker than the younger. In other words performance increases with age.
- Being able to retrieve simple math addition in the memory helps kids to learn new math concepts. In other words this process allows children to use free space in the work memory in order to learn new math concepts.
- This retrieval process improves the ability of the hippocampus which is the region of the brain where new memories come in before being transferred in long term memories.
One tends to think that learning math is simply related to thinking and solving problems only. The role of the memory is important in these processes. We retrieve procedures, theorems, rules, etc in the memory in order to learn new concepts and solve problems. One would think that in using the memory one would record things without understanding them. Quite the contrary when you understand something you can better store it in the long term memory and retrieve it from there. The long term memory is where you store things that are important to you. Sometimes things are stored verbatim when it's necessary, For example you store formulas verbatim so that they can be retrieved for future use. Other times only representations of things are stored in the long memory. These representations are not exactly a reproduction of the reality but a way for you to figure them out. Learning involves processes in the brain. It is important to understand these processes to improve learning.
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