Memory Works – Part 1

Our memories and more particularly our memory failures get the blame for a lot of our learning problems.  So what is memory, where is it, what is it doing and how do you get it to work better?  Memory Works – Part 1 deals mainly with short term or working memory.  Part 2 will deal with long term memory.

Memory is a function of an incredibly amazing thing called your brain.  Whilst it’s true that some rare people get an extra dose of memory ability, mostly, if your memory isn’t working it’s because you haven’t read the instruction book.  The first thing to understand about your brain is that it is a muscle.  Just like the muscles in your arms, the more you work it, the stronger and more noticeable they get.  Inside your brain there are networks of neurons that grow in density, the more you use them.  That doesn’t mean your brain gets bigger, but it does get heavier.  The more neurons you grow, the faster you go.

Scientists think there are three types of memory: Read more

SMART Goal Setting for Teens

Turning over a new leaf doesn’t just belong to New Year’s Day.  Goal Setting and celebrating achievements are the markers of successful lives.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. Here’s how to set SMART goals for yourself and make certain of your success.

We all have goals for our lives.  They are the things we want for ourselves that we don’t yet have.  Some of our goals are short term, we can get them quite quickly like eating less chocolate or going to bed by 10pm.  Other goals take more time and need to be broken down into smaller steps like improving a maths grade by 15% or getting a driver’s licence.  Goals are not the same as dreams for our life which tend to be much bigger and more general -like I want to be rich and famous and have my photo on the front of a major magazine.  Dreams involve a large dollop of wild imagination.  Goals balance imagination with careful planning.

Teens often find that other people also have goals for their lives.  Mom wants me to be a doctor, my maths teacher wants me to talk less in class, my boyfriend wants me to grow my hair long… There is only one thing to say about other people’s goals, they belong to other people.  Only you have the power to change you and that power comes from wanting it for yourself.  What do you want? Read more

Read to Read

Today is International Literacy Day, and also Tolstoy’s birthday (he’s the old guy that is popping up on your google browser home page). I first “met” Tolstoy when I was in matric. He helped me through my final exams by giving me a parallel universe to escape to, filled with people and events that I was not at all responsible for. What a relief!

People read for all sorts of reasons. Fun, relaxation and finding out new things rate as some of the more positive experiences. Reading for pleasure means you get to choose what you are reading because you are interested in it. You also get to choose where and when you read it. No one is making you. Some say reading is a form of play but I like what Pullman (2004) has to say: “Consider the nature of what happens when we read a book… It isn’t like a lecture: it’s like a conversation. There’s a back and forthness about it. The book proposes, the reader questions, the book responds, the reader considers. And we are active about the process… We can skim or we can read it slowly; we can read every word, or we can skip long passages, we can read it in the order it presents itself, or we can read it in any order we please, we can look at the last page first, or decide to wait for it, we can put the book down and… we can assent or we can disagree.” Read more

How to Study Maths

Studying maths is different to studying other subjects.  If you are reading this you are probably trying to study it for the first time.  May be you’ve gotten by on your natural talent up until this point.  Natural talent is great, as long as it lasts.  The good news is that when talent can’t get you by any longer, hard work can.  Learning HOW to study maths will make a big difference to your results.

Study techniques can briefly be summarised into three categories – summarise, memorise and practice.  For most of the subjects you studied up until this point, you probably focused mainly on summarise with a little of memorise.  Maths is different because it relies on memorise and lots of PRACTICE! Read more

Study Skills Part 2: Stress Management

Stress, even the word can conjure up vivid images and feelings of butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms and fuzzy thinking.  Whilst too much stress will slow down your ability to study and retain information, not enough stress will see you lying in hammock in the sun instead of studying for that maths exam.  How do you get a balance?  Stress management is the answer. Read more