Working Memory – Why It’s More Important than IQ

We tend to think that the key to doing well in school is being smart, but that's not really true. Academic success is about more than just being brainy. In fact, studies show us that students who have a more developed working memory are actually better performers in school than those children who have a higher raw IQ score.

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Think of working memory as the brain's notepad - it's that space in our minds where we keep everything while we're using it. People with good working memory are able to multitask and, therefore, connect lots of different of information.

Visual-spatial and Auditory Working Memory

Working memory is divided into two subsections: Visual-spatial and auditory. Visual-spatial is of course the still images, written language and video that we see in our minds while working through something, while auditory includes spoken language, music and every other sound that might be involved in the task at hand. People tend to be more proficient in one or the other, but you have to be able to utilize both in order to be successful. You have to process both auditory information along with visual-spatial information at the same time in order to be able to most efficiently understand academic material.

Connect the Dots, La-lala-lala

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Why? Because in order to critically think about a subject, you have to be able to connect the dots. So the brain has to process one kind of information almost in the background in order to allow it to connect that information to new input that's coming in.

Let's say your kids are working on word problems in math - they have to be able to capture the textual or auditory input and process it while also connecting it to mathematical principles. Working memory is the key to making all of this happen at once. These same kinds of multitasking skills are essential for everything from reading comprehension to decoding words to even those early seemingly simple mathematics principles. Multitasking skills are also at the heart of following directions accurately, in particular multi-step directions like "first write your name at the top, then staple your paper and place it in the red bin."

Working memory is what lets you both process the numbers next to each dot and look at the wider picture to see the image that's coming from the connection of each of those dots.

Wondering if memory is your child's strong suit? Take our Strength Assessment to find out!

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