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Posts Tagged as "The Week"

Why Sleep is Awesome #2

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Kindergarten nap2

Need to focus? Take a nap! From my favorite magazine, The Week:

The restorative power of naps

The boss might not buy it, but an early afternoon nap could indeed make you more productive, reports National Geographic News. Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, gave two groups of adults a learning test designed to stimulate a part of the brain critical to short-term memory. At 2 p.m., two hours after taking the test, one group was allowed to nap for 90 minutes; the other continued to work. At 6 p.m., the test was administered again, and the group that had napped scored markedly better than the one that hadn’t napped.

The results suggest that sleep “reboots” the brain, helping to clear its short-term memory and shuttle key information into longer-term storage. “It’s as though the e-mail inbox is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail,” says study author Matthew Walker. After napping, he says, you’re “ready to soak up new information.”

My favorite quote from the longer National Geographic News article: “When you have a problem, no one says you should ‘stay awake on it,'” he [researcher Matthew Walker] quipped.

We seem to accept that kids benefit from naps. But adult napping, especially in the workplace, is not encouraged, even though it helps adults learn better and get more stuff done.

I frequently use naps as a way to re-set and refresh my brain, and I’m glad to see this phenomenon being explored and recognized by the scientific community! Maybe this research will be a small step towards a more pro-nap culture.

(Photo courtesy of Mills Lawn School.)

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Regain Your Sleeping Powers

Posts Tagged as "The Week"

When in doubt, talk it out

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Here’s a great new tidbit from my favorite magazine, The Week:

If you find yourself struggling to solve a complex math problem, try working through it out loud, says Scientific American. Psychologists in Spain found that college-level math students who detailed their thinking processes aloud were able to solve the problems faster and with greater accuracy than their silent counterparts.

In the study, quiet and nonquiet students were placed in separate rooms, given problems to solve, and monitored on videotape. The test results confirmed that students who talked aloud, or who drew pictures to map out the problems, scored higher and finished faster.

The researchers aren’t quite sure why this approach works, says psychologist Jose Luis Villegas Castellanos, only that representing a problem verbally or visually clearly offers “more possibilities of finding the right solution.”

This new finding makes me think of all the times in high school that I’d approach my math teacher to ask for help, only to suddenly realize exactly what I needed to do as soon as I started to explain why I was confused. I’d joke with my teachers about how they radiated understanding so I’d just “absorb” it once I was in their force field. But now I’m wondering if it was actually the process of getting ready to tell someone what I didn’t understand that activated my own inner knowledge.

This new finding also potentially explains why tutoring can be so powerful. In most math classes today, students passively receive information by listening to a teacher present the material to the class and then approach math problems in silent solitude at their desk. Talking things through out loud isn’t encouraged.

But in a tutoring situation, students are forced to talk things through out loud with their tutor. Maybe the process of learning to talk things out is as powerful as the process of “getting help” from someone who is more experienced.

I wish that more people were encouraged to talk things out and draw pictures to solve problems in standard math classes.