If you had to look up every word in a dictionary in order to finish reading a newspaper article, your brain might end up sacrificing the deeper meaning of the story. Could relying on a calculator to do math have a similar effect?
That’s the crux of research by Yi Ding, PhD, associate professor of school psychology in the Graduate School of Education.
Ding’s research focuses on strategies that teachers can use to help children who are struggling with math. She makes the case that memorization of basic math facts, such as multiplication tables, is key because it allows children to store information in their long-term memory, and frees up their working memory to tackle more complex problems. For example, adults don’t have to actively remember their own names or birthdays because those facts are readily available in their long-term memory, which works on auto-retrieve.
“If you have to decode every word you are reading, what happens? You don’t have reading comprehension at all because your working memory is occupied by saying each letter. Your attention can’t go to the who, the how, the where, and the what,” she said.
“Math facts are the same. We have to memorize or automatically retrieve all this mathematical vocabulary so kids have this kind of fluency. Then their brain–their working memory–frees up to understand more complicated problems.”
Read the full story at Fordham News.