A great old maths learning tool......
It's interesting to think about how educators, sports coaches, music teachers and other teachers have always instinctively incorporated the principles of brain training in their teaching activities, without necessarily being aware of them.
The principles of brain training described by neuroscientists from their brain research over the last few decades are:
- Frequency and intensity (doing exercises often, e.g. daily, and doing them in short concentrated bursts rather than spreading the exercises over a longer time e.g. a 10 minute intensive learning session is better than the same amount of work spread over two hours).
- Adaptive exercises (exercises that increase or decrease in difficulty in response to the success or otherwise of the student).
- Simultaneous development (exercises that develop different parts of the brain at the same time e.g. building a language skill such as phonological discrimination at the same time as improving attention is more effective than working on them separately).
- Timely motivation and rewards (the student’s brain responds better if it receives immediate feedback on whether the response or action is correct or not, and is rewarded for success).
For example, these principles are incorporated in the computer-based brain training exercises in the Fast ForWord program (which builds learning capacity, reading skills, and a brain better able to learn the English language) and the Cogmed working memory program.
But these training principles have also been used by teachers for many, many years.
Maths learning tool from last century, includes brain training principles
A good example of how they were used by educators in the past is the LearnFast Maths Skills Booster tool.
This paper-based tool is a smart way for students to learn the “times table” to improve their basic maths skills. This tool was conceived many years ago (last century in fact), well before our knowledge of brain training principles and the use of computers to deliver training.
It incorporates two of the four principles:
- Frequency and intensity
- Timely motivation and rewards
Frequency and intensity is delivered by the student being required to do the exercises for up to 10 minutes a day, five days a week.
At the end of each daily session the student, or a parent or teacher, checks the number of correct answers and the time taken to complete the tasks. This provides timely motivation, as the student immediately sees how well they performed. And rewards can be delivered via tangible prizes for the achievement of success milestones.
Other instances of the many activities where teachers use the neuroscience training principles include practising tennis, golf and other sports as well as learning music or the pronunciation of words in a foreign language. Teachers and coaches encourage their students to practice often (frequency), tell them if they are getting it right or wrong (necessary for timely motivation), and increase or decrease the degree of difficulty (adaptive exercises) depending on the student’s progress.
Paper-based tool means that students need to use handwriting
Because the Maths Skills Booster is an "old-fashioned" non-technological tool, students have to handwrite their answers. Brain research now seems to be suggesting there are learning benefits from handwriting.