Secrets of Learning!

By Crystal Maria Andrade,

You may be curious as to know how humans learn. The ability to create new memories, store them for a longer period of time and recall them when they are needed is something marvelous about human memory. But, how parents and teachers think about learning taking place in children is erroneous. Let’s look at what memory has in store for us. 

Learning is a continuous process which lasts life-long in humans. It begins right when the baby is in the womb till we die. There has been lot of research done as to how learning takes place in humans. Today, we find parents worrying that their children do not do well in their studies and some children find it difficult to grasp concepts and lag behind while others are fast learners and get bored or impatient as they learn quite faster than the others and don’t fit into their peer groups. Why do you think this happens? Do we not know that each individual differs from the other even in terms of learning and memory?

Learning is different for each individual because we learn in different places and situations. Learning depends on whether it is formal or informal. People learn through different ways like touch, auditory, visual, behavior, attention, rote memorization, observing, and perceptions and so on. Moreover, we learn through variety of formats like multimedia, books, lectures and the like. Our learning is influenced by our culture, family, social status, genetic traits, developmental ability and age. Thus, learning is unique to each individual. Furthermore, one needs to know that learning and memory are interdependent. Learning takes place because of memory and without memory you cannot learn.

Photo Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/717339

Misconceptions about learning

The fact that everybody needs to know about how learning takes place is crucial in determining better results and how to overcome some common prejudices. Learning is not as simple as we think and it is much more than cramming. Teachers and parents make their students and children follow stringent studying habits without understanding the aspect of how learning takes place in children or humans in general. Learning is the result of memory and the process of learning depends on how the information in processed in the stages of our memory. The stages that makes memory is due to encoding, storing and retrieval. If we have learnt something then it is because there is a relative permanent change which has taken place in our behavior, mental processors and our perceptions about the concepts which is solely due to the result of our experience.

Stages of memory

What everybody needs to know is how the information is processed in our memory and how learning occurs in humans. The stages are as follows:

Stage 1: This is the first stage of memory and the information which we have perceived or seen is encoded for a brief period of time i.e. few seconds. This information must be either transferred immediately to short-term memory or else it is liable to be erased or ceased. This stage is called sensory information.

Stage 2: The second stage of memory lasts for 20 to 30 seconds. Some selective sensory information which is stored in our active memory or conscious mind is called as short-term memory. Most of the short-term memories are quickly forgotten, to locate them for future reference, one has to attend to this information so that this information moves to the next stage.

Stage 3: The final stage of memory refers to information which lies deep in our unconscious and can be retrieved whenever desired. It’s a stage where old information is replaced with new and the information stored here can be retrieved for a lifetime. It plays a vital role in learning without which our purpose wouldn’t be served. This stage is called long term memory. Information stored here is permanent.

Memory like music

Memory can be compared to music on your phone. If you watch a YouTube music video then it would be a sensory information for your phone. If you download a song and if it is in your playlist then it would be short term memory. Once the new songs are added, the old ones will be automatically moved from the playlist. If you keep playing the new songs many times, they will be on your phone as most played. Likewise, this is how memory works. The more you rehearse any information, the more you will be able to retrieve or recall the information later.

Goodbye to cramming

Now that you know how memory works and how learning takes place, you can get rid of your traditional ways of teaching or studying and say goodbye to all your prejudices about learning.  Cramming or rote learning entire night before the day of exam is not the right way to study. Doing this will only result in mental block or forgetting. Every time you sit for studying, remember that rehearsing the information you have learnt is very essential for learning to take place. This indicates that revising helps in recalling the information accurately. Only when the information is rehearsed in the short term memory, it will be transferred to the long term memory. When this happens we know that learning has taken place. Hence, practice is important so that your memory knows that this repeated information has a purpose and will be retrieved whenever you need it. So, your memory is like a field. The more you sow, the more you shall reap. Consequently, make your memory your good friend, as you’ll need its help for lifelong whenever needed.

About the Author:

Crystal Maria Andrade is a Content Developer at Learnhive. Nature, travelling, music, movies and fun interests her. She has a profound passion for writing. She believes making the most out of every opportunity. Her hobbies include collecting quotes, learning new words and playing crosswords and puzzles. She’s a fun-lover and is surrounded by fun-loving people. Spreading happiness is her mantra.

About Learnhive: 

Learnhive is a leading provider of technology based learning solutions for K-12 students, parents, and tutors. Our goal is to make curriculum based learning more effective and fun. We specialize in providing after school learning solutions for students and parents. Our flagship product, Personal Concept Tutor™ gives students the flexibility to learn concepts at their own pace using a wide variety of materials and resources suited for their individual needs. Our technology is compatible with multiple device formats such as desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones to make learning more fun, interactive and available to students anywhere and at anytime. Signup for free to access the learning materials (lessons and exercises).

How to beat the fear of Algebra?

By Arindam Nag.

Elementary Algebra is generalized form of arithmetic. It provides a language to represent problems and functions. Algebraic thinking is also one of the first forms of abstract thinking that students develop in mathematics. It is most critical to understand what mental model your child has established and then look to mould and correct that model giving different examples. Lets look at some of the common gotchas of algebraic learning.

Fear of the unknown x

In Algebra, we use a mixture of numerical digits (constants) and alphabets (variables). For many children, after having done arithmetic, they get pretty confused with the introduction of alphabets in mathematical expressions. Also, with x being the favorite letter for a variable, it is even more confusing since it is the symbol used for multiplication. In computer programming parlance, x is overloaded.

The easiest way to introduce alphabets in arithmetic is to use them as placeholders while solving word problems. Consider the following problem: 5 bananas cost 20 rupees. What is the cost of each banana? Such type of problem is introduced quite early, as soon as children learn multiplication and division. You can start with using a sketch of a banana to represent cost of one banana. You can show that instead of writing 5 x Cost of one banana = 20,

5 x Cost of banana = 20they can draw a picture of a banana. Then they can replace that picture with an alphabet, say b to represent the banana. So, now they have a language to represent the problem to say

5 x b = 20

This is the beginning of Algebra. Algebraic thinking can be introduced by asking them what happens if the cost of 5 banans increases to 30 rupees and then 40 rupees.

Algebraic expressions to represent functions

In the above example, the letter b really represented one value. The essence of Algebra is that an alphabet is used to represent a variable quantity which can take on different values and thus represent a function. Using Age related problems is a great way to explain this concept. Start by asking your child to express the following statement as an algebraic expression : Father is 30 years older than the son. How would you write this?

Age of son : x

Age of father : x + 30

 

Father and son

Then proceed by asking what happens to the father’s age as the son’s age increases. This will build a mental model of a function. Then one can easily introduce the concept of an equation. When the father is 50 years old what is the age of son?

x + 30 = 50

Solve for x.

 

 

Misconception about subtracting variables

Another common mistake that almost all children make is dealing with expressions like this.

What is 5x – x ?

Most children will answer that as 5, especially when the problem is asked verbally. This is because of two reasons. First reason is that they forget x is really a shorthand for 1x. The other reason is that children have a mental model of the above expression as:

5(x – x)

rather than

(5 – 1)x

This can also be explained with an interesting age problem. The father’s age is 5 times the son’s age. The difference in their current ages is 20. What are their ages?

5x – x = 20

Solve for x.

 

Conclusion

Remember that Algebra is beginning of abstract thinking in mathematics. Hence it is very important that we understand what is the model they have in their mind and then help shape that model. Most important is to remove the fear of use of alphabets in mathematical expressions. Make it fun by using puzzles and then inculcate the understanding of function representation. Then, definitions around like terms, coefficients and others will naturally follow.

Algebraic terminology

References:

1. Making Meaning in Algebra Examining Students’ Understandings and Misconceptions — David Foster http://library.msri.org/books/Book53/files/12foster.pdf

2. On the learning of Algebra — H. Wu. http://math.berkeley.edu/~wu/algebra1.pdf

About the Author:

Arindam Nag is a  Founder and Director at Learnhive; he has over 15 years experience in information technology. He worked for over 13 years at one of the world’s leading investment banks, Goldman Sachs in various engineering and technology leadership roles. He has a Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a recipient of National Talent Search Scholarship. He is a staunch believer in using technology to bridge the gap in the educational divide that exists not just in India but the world over.

About Learnhive: 

Learnhive is a leading provider of technology based learning solutions for K12 students, parents, and tutors. Our goal is to make curriculum based learning more effective and fun. We specialize in providing after school learning solutions for students and parents. Our flagship product, Personal Concept Tutor™ gives students the flexibility to learn concepts at their own pace using a wide variety of materials and resources suited for their individual needs. Our technology is compatible with multiple device formats such as desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones to make learning more fun, interactive and available to students anywhere and at anytime. Signup for free to access the learning materials (lessons and exercises).

Make learning effective – address the misconceptions

By Shiv Shankar, Founder and CEO, LearnHive

Did you know that kids have strong misconceptions? Watching lecture based video lessons will not help the kids to learn the concepts. This was explained in an recent  article. An example of misconception is that kids believe that the earth is flat. When the (video) teacher explains that the earth is round, the kids imagine that it is like a pancake, round and flat. So, how do we solve this problem and make learning more effective?

It is very important to bring out the child’s misconceptions and replace it with the correct concepts. Following the above example, asking the question whether the earth is like a pancake and explaining that the earth is like a ball will remove the misconception. Derek Muller in his Ph.D. thesis explains the best ways to teach Physics by addressing the common misconceptions.

It is now time to abolish monologue lecture videos as a means to teach concepts. A concept can be taught very effectively if a student is included in the video and there is a dialogue with a student. The student in the video should actively ask questions to clarify the misconceptions. This will help the child who is watching the video to assume the role of the student in the video and activate mirror neurons leading to better learning. Arindam Nag, one of our co-founders has applied this principle and did an excellent job of explaining the concept of infinity to his daughter. You can watch this awesome infinity concept YouTube video .

What common misconceptions do your children have? Share the misconceptions with us and we will help you to  teach the correct concepts.

I have given some references below if you are interested in exploring further.

References:

  1. “Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.”- Book: How people learn?
  2. Mental Models of the Earth:  A Study of Conceptual Change in Childhood
  3. Expert gently asks whether Khan’s Academy videos promote meaningful learning
  4. Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education
  5. Mirror Neuron – wiki
  6. Learnhive video – Concept of Infinity

About the Author:

Shiv Shankar (shiv@learnhive.net) is the co-founder and CEO of LearnHive. He cofounded Learnhive committed to creating a unique knowledge ecosystem which will make it easy to create, organize, share and obtain learning materials for K-12 education.

 About Learnhive: 

Learnhive is a leading provider of technology based learning solutions for K12 students, parents, and tutors. Our goal is to make curriculum based learning more effective and fun. We specialize in providing after school learning solutions for students and parents. Our flagship product, Personal Concept Tutor™ gives students the flexibility to learn concepts at their own pace using a wide variety of materials and resources suited for their individual needs. Our technology is compatible with multiple device formats such as desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones to make learning more fun, interactive and available to students anywhere and at anytime. Signup for free to access the learning materials (lessons and exercises).