Posts Tagged ‘mathematics’

Developing spatial vocabulary in infants

November 3, 2011

In a recent collection of essays, “Manhood for Amateurs,” one of my favorite writers, Michael Chabon, laments a development in the world of Legos, namely that they now come almost exclusively in kits with detailed instructions, designed to be assembled in a particular way to create a specific space ship or tractor. Gone, says Chabon, are the days of starting with a bin full of Legos of all sizes, shapes and colors, and creating, well, something creative.

Fortunately, some new research indicates that all might not be lost. In fact, “guided play,” in which participants are given blocks along with graphic instructions for creating a particular structure, generates higher levels of “spatial talk” than free play. The research was performed at Temple University’s Infant Lab, and recently highlighted by Science Daily:

The researchers found that when playing with blocks under interactive conditions, children hear the kind of language that helps them think about space, such as “over,” “around” and “through.”

“When parents use spatial language, they draw attention to spatial concepts,” said Nora Newcombe, co-director of Temple’s Infant Lab. “The development of a spatial vocabulary is critical for developing spatial ability and awareness.”

Spatial skills, says the Science Daily article, “are important for success in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines, but they are also involved in many everyday tasks, such as packing the trunk of a car or assembling a crib. They are a central component of intellect and, as those who struggle finding their way around a new city can attest, they show marked individual differences.”

So Chabon’s laments aside, it’s OK, and maybe even good, to pick up that Star Wars Lego kit and build the Death Star just like the picture on the box.

For other research about the importance of manipulative play, check out:

Want to learn? Forget what you know!

September 21, 2010

In time for the back to school season, the New York Times highlights new research into the dos and don’ts of studying:

  • DON’T find a specific place to do all of your studying. The brain makes subtle associations between what you’re studying and background sensations. More variation in the background gives the information more “neural scaffolding.”
  • DO mix up your studying. Just like athletes mix strength, speed and skill training in their workouts, students should vary the type of material they study in a given study session.
  • DON’T cram for tests. Scientists say this is akin to cramming a cheap suitcase full of clothes before a trip. It’ll all fit in there, but it will all spill out before long. Space your studying to improve later recall.
  • DO embrace those tests. Scientists say the act of taking a test fundamentally changes the way information is stored in the brain in a way that makes it more accessible in the future.

We’ve got one more do to add (thought it wasn’t in the Times summary): DO ensure your child’s brain is processing at peak efficiency. Smart kids whose brains aren’t processing efficiently will struggle with even the best curriculum delivered by the very best teachers. The good news is that we can improve brain processing efficiency with programs like Fast ForWord. It’s not easy, but Be Amazing Learning can help. Give us a call!

Make it an Amazing Summer!

April 6, 2010

Summer is the perfect time to build brain fitness and academic readiness with Be Amazing Learning!

  • Away from the academic challenges of the school year, children have the mental energy to focus on our programs’ rigorous exercises
  • Customizable daily and weekly schedules can work around summer camp and vacation plans.

Stop the brain drain this summer with these special summer offers from Be Amazing Learning and be ready for academic success next fall!

Summer Reading and Math Package

Combine Fast ForWord, Reading Assistant and FASTT Math from Be Amazing Learning to build foundational cognitive skills, literacy, and math fluency. Your child will return to school in the fall with improved brain processing efficiency, working memory and attention skills, plus be ready to tackle higher-order math.

Purchase 4 months of programs from Be Amazing Learning by June 1 at our already discounted price of $1500 and we’ll include 4 months of FASTT Math at no additional cost. That’s $2800 of academic skills training for just $1500!

Call us today at (800) 792-4809 to take advantage of this special summer offer!

Fast ForWord Boot Camp

Remember how short summer felt when you were a kid? One minute you’re celebrating the 4th of July, the next minute it’s Labor Day and time to go back to school.

Take advantage of the brief intensity of summer with Fast ForWord Summer Boot Camp from Be Amazing Learning. Purchase this package by July 1 and get 10 weeks of Fast ForWord programs for just $1000. That’s a savings of 20% off of our regular monthly price. Add 10 weeks of FASTT Math for just $200 more.

Call us today at (800) 792-4809 to get started!

Building Math Fluency

April 6, 2010

In its report “Foundations for Success” (2008), the National Math Panel emphasized the importance of developing automatic recall of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts in order to adequately prepare for algebra and beyond.

FASTT MathTo help students develop this math fact fluency, Be Amazing Learning is excited to add the FASTT Math program to our stable of programs. FASTT Math uses the research-validated FASTT system (Fluency and Automaticity through Systematic Teaching with Technology) to help students develop fluency with basic math facts.

Each student undergoes a brief assessment to uncover fluency gaps and to establish a baseline of fluency. Then, FASTT Math automatically differentiates instruction in customized, 10-minute daily sessions.

FASTT Math ensures that all students, regardless of their fluency level, build the long-lasting fluency they will need to tackle higher-order math.

At 10 minutes per day, FASTT Math is a great add-on to the Fast ForWord programs. Call us today at (800) 792-4809 for more information about how to incorporate FASTT Math into your summer!

Approximate Number Sense

April 5, 2010

We focus a lot on literacy here at Be Amazing Learning, but at our core, we’re about the brain and how to make it operate most efficiently. So anything about the brain is going to pique our interest. This week, it’s the concept of an approximate number system.

Our approximate number system our instinctive ability to represent numbers. It’s what we use to find the shortest check-out line at the grocery store. And, as the New York Times reported, it’s:

an ancient and intuitive sense that we are born with and that we share with many other animals. Rats, pigeons, monkeys, babies — all can tell more from fewer, abundant from stingy. An approximate number sense is essential to brute survival: how else can a bird find the best patch of berries, or two baboons know better than to pick a fight with a gang of six?

Our approximate number sense is different from the ability to “do” math (or, as the Times says, “the ability to manipulate representations of numbers and explore the quantitative texture of our world”). “Doing” math is a uniquely human and very recent skill:

People have been at it only for the last few millennia, it’s not universal to all cultures, and it takes years of education to master.

However, research indicates a strong correlation between the innate approximate number sense and our learned ability to do math. In a 2008 study in the journal Nature, Justin Halberda and Lisa Feigenson of Johns Hopkins University and Michele Mazzocco of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore devised a test of approximate number sense.

Comparing the acuity scores with other test results that Dr. Mazzocco had collected from the students over the past 10 years, the researchers found a robust correlation between dot-spotting prowess at age 14 and strong performance on a raft of standardized math tests from kindergarten onward. “We can’t draw causal arrows one way or another,” Dr. Feigenson said, “but your evolutionarily endowed sense of approximation is related to how good you are at formal math.”

The researchers don’t know yet how the two number systems interact:

Brain imaging studies have traced the approximate number sense to a specific neural structure called the intraparietal sulcus, which also helps assess features like an object’s magnitude and distance. Symbolic math, by contrast, operates along a more widely distributed circuitry, activating many of the prefrontal regions of the brain that we associate with being human. Somewhere, local and global must be hooked up to a party line.

Want to test your approximate number sense? The Times has an interactive screening similar to the test of acuity used in the Nature study.

(Hat tip to Scientific Learning’s Brain Gain email series for this topic.)

Impact of working memory deficits on learning

June 9, 2009

Over at SharpBrains, Dr. Tracy Alloway breaks down a recent study she published in Child Development about the relationship between working memory abilities and a range of academic skills, including reading, spelling and comprehension.

In screening of over 3000 school-aged students in mainstream schools, 1 in 10 was identified as having working memory difficulties. There were several key findings regarding their cognitive skills. The first is that the majority of them performed below age-expected levels in reading and mathematics. This suggests that low working memory skills constitute a high risk factor for educational underachievement for students. This corresponds with evidence that working memory impacts all areas of learning from kindergarten to college. It is a basic cognitive skill that we need to perform a variety of activities, and we use it in core subjects like reading and maths, as well as general topics like Art and Music. Crucially, this pattern of poor performance in learning outcomes remains even when students’ IQ is statistically accounted.

This fits well with evidence suggesting that working memory is even more important to learning than other cognitive skills such as IQ. For example, in typically developing students, I found that their working memory skills, rather than IQ, at 5 years old were the best predictor of predictor of reading, spelling, and math outcomes six years later.

Reading and math development are critical, but what about classroom and learning skills?

…teachers typically judged the students to be highly inattentive, and have short poor attention spans and high levels of distractibility. They were also commonly described as forgetting what they are currently doing and things they have learned, failing to remember instructions, and failing to complete tasks. In everyday classroom activities, they often made careless mistakes, particularly in writing, and had difficulty in solving problems.


…students with working memory difficulties take a much longer time to process information. They are unable to cope with timed activities and fast presentation of information. As a result, they often end up abandoning the activities all together out of frustration.

As it relates to reading, the criticality of working memory skills (and in particular auditory working memory skills) is not necessarily a new concept. Auditory working memory (the capacity to hold speech sounds in memory) is needed for tasks such as comparing phonemes, relating phonemes to letters, and sounding out words. Auditory working memory also helps listeners and readers understand sentences because it allows them to remember a series of words in order. It allows students to remember and manipulate sequences of sounds, associate spoken words with written words, retain new words while identifying their meanings, and remember the beginning of a sentence while listening to the end.

A program like Fast ForWord from Be Amazing Learning, which specifically targets auditory working memory development (along with other foundational cognitive skills like processing rates, attention and sequencing), can be an effective tool to remediate the working memory deficits that can lead to reading and other learning difficulties.


Exercises like Whalien Match in Fast ForWord Language, which resembles the memory card game but substitutes auditory cues for visual ones, develop critical working memory skills.

It’s important to note that the students in Dr. Alloway’s study were typically developing, but still struggled with reading, math and general learning due to their working memory deficits. And her data shows that 10% of mainstream educated kids have these deficits.

Clearly, we’ve got to get more of these kids on Fast ForWord!

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