Standing vs. Sitting 8% more oxygen reaches the brain. 20% more norepinephrine (memory “fixative”) is released in the brain.
Extremely Complex Topic Summarize findings that affect our interactions with students in class How do we apply this information?
Assume uninjured, “normal” brain For students with special needs, see the bibliography for resource books.
Part One (1, 0+1, 3-2, I) What happens inside your brain when you learn something new?
This is your brain… Brain cells are called neurons. You are born with at least 100 billion neurons. Dendrites (fibers) grow out of the neurons when you listen to/write about/talk about/ practice something.
Inside the human brain 100 billion neurons (brain cells) Each neuron may have 10,000 connections to other neurons. A great example of scientific notation: (1 X 10^11) (1 X 10^4) = 1 X 10^__ or one _______________ connections
Micrograph of a Single Neuron
Learning is natural! Neurons know how to grow dendrites, just like a stomach knows how to digest food. Learning = Growth of dendrites. New dendrites take time to grow; it takes a lot of practice for them to grow.
Connections form between neurons. When two dendrites grow close together, a contact point is formed. A small gap at the contact point is called the synapse. Messages are sent from one neuron to another as electrical signals travel across the synapse.
Neurons have many connections. A single neuron can have over 10,000 connections. Each connection site on this neuron has been stained yellow.
Practice builds strong connections! Special chemicals called neurotransmitters carry the electrical signals across the synapse. When you practice something, it gets easier for the signals to cross the synapse. That’s because the contact area becomes wider and more neuro- transmitters are stored there.
Practice builds faster connections. When you practice something, the dendrites grow thicker with a fatty coating of myelin. The thicker the dendrites, the faster the signals travel. The myelin coating also reduces interference.
Myelin increases processing capacity. Myelin insulation allows neurons to recover faster after signals are sent and get ready to send the next signal more quickly. Thus, myelin gives brain cells the equivalent of “greater bandwidth” and increases their processing capacity by 3000 percent.
Practice builds double connections. With enough practice, the dendrites build a double connection. Faster, stronger, double connections last a very long time. You remember what you learned!
Short-term memory is VERY short! If you learn something new and do it only once or twice, the dendrite connection is very fragile and can disappear within hours. Within 20 minutes, you remember only 60%. Within 24 hours, you remember only 30%. If you practice within 24 hours, then practice again later, you remember 80%.
Make the most of practice time… You grow dendrites for exactly the same thing you are practicing. If you listen or watch while math problems are solved, you grow dendrites for listening or for watching. If you actually solve the problems yourself, you grow dendrites for solving.
The dendrites this toddler is growing are for what skill or concept?
Take a break… Wish we could bounce around like these two, but since we can’t, let’s do: –10 toe raises –Stretch high –Hang low
Part Two (2, II, 1+1, 3-1) What are the most important points for me to remember?
Major Points to Remember, #1 You are naturally smart, because …
You are naturally smart, because … Your brain knows how to grow dendrites just like your stomach knows how to digest food. Think about a baby who learns to speak in its native language without any special classes or training!
Major Point #2 You must do something active (explain, solve, draw, write, etc.) in order to learn, because…
You must do something active to learn, because… Dendrites grow ONLY when you are actively doing something. No one else can grow dendrites for you!
Major Point #3 Dendrites cannot grow in a void. They can only grow …
Dendrites cannot grow in a void. New dendrites can only grow off of what is already there. New skills must connect to, and grow off of, previously learned skills. If you do not have the necessary dendrites in place, new material will seem to go “right over your head”. So, start with a math course that matches your skill level.
Major Point #4 Dendrites take time to grow, because…
Dendrites take time to grow, because… It takes a lot of practice for dendrites to grow. This is why you do homework. This is why trying to cram everything into your brain the night before a test doesn’t work.
Major Point #5 Mistakes, with feedback, are essential and good, because…
Mistakes are essential, because… Making mistakes, and getting feedback so you can correct them, allows you to check the accuracy of the connections in your brain. Be sure to get feedback quickly so you don’t practice the wrong thing and build a strong, but wrong, connection!
Major Point #6 Emotions affect learning and memory! Let’s see how it works…
What can emotions do to you? Anxiety floods your body with adrenaline (“fight or flight”). Adrenaline makes it hard for the neuro- transmitters to carry messages across the synapses in your brain. That causes “blanking out” on a test.
How can emotions help you? Endorphins make you feel calm. Your body produces endorphins when you relax, exercise, laugh, or learn new things. If you practice producing calming hormones, it will help when you are under stress.
Learning Something New When engaged in learning, the brain secretes endorphins! So it feels good to learn!
Part Three (3, III, 1+1+1) So what does all this mean for me?
Use dendrite theory to answer these questions… I understand what’s going on in the lecture just fine. But when I get home and start on the homework assignment, why am I lost? I attend class and do all the homework and feel like I understand everything. Then why do I just “blank out” on the test and can’t do anything?
Can you answer these? Why should I do all this homework? It’s just the same thing over and over. I work full time. Can I do homework only on weekends and still pass the course?
More questions… I’ve been absent for a week but there’s a test tomorrow. Can I cram it all in tonight? Why can’t I take this math course even if I haven’t passed the prerequisite course (or gotten a high enough score on the placement test)?
Please form groups of 4 or 5 people. Select a recorder, who will write down: –The group’s name –Which question(s) you are answering –What you would say to a student (who has heard the basic brain information) Select a spokesperson to make a 1-minute report to the whole group. Select a timer; finish work in 10 minutes.
So what should you do? Start with the right math course; the skills build from one course to the next. Take the rest of your math courses one at a time, in order. Do some of the homework as soon as possible after class, before you forget. Try to practice math every day. To manage anxiety, learn simple relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breathing.
More things you can do… Make sure you are actively DOING something when you study. Make study cards. Draw pictures or diagrams. Solve lots of problems; check your answers. Check your understanding by explaining how to do a problem to another student. Create a practice test for yourself. Work it in the same amount of time you’ll be given in class.
Brain-Friendly Teaching Techniques What you do in your classroom DOES make a difference.
Someone who teaches math Is very smart Is nerdy Has no social life Is serious all the time Has no sense of humor Doesn’t know how to have fun Has no fashion sense Uses a pocket protector
Students form an opinion within the first 5 minutes. My simple, favorite, brain-friendly technique for starting the first class day on a positive note is … (drum roll)
Introduce yourself individually to students; shake hands.
Why is this brain friendly? It’s different; the brain pays attention. It feels good. It models respectful, cooperative behavior and risk taking.
Brains hate B.O. Boring Ordinary
Paying attention… After 8-10 minutes of similarity, the brain stops paying attention and goes on autopilot. Make some change in the environment to alert the brain’s “secretary,” the reticular activating system.
The reticular activating system is responsible for: Attention; it screens out the routine stuff. Arousal; change is noted and the brain is alerted to begin thinking again.
The change in environment can be small. Turn off the PowerPoint. Include an unexpected slide. Move to a different place in the room before continuing your lecture. Ask students to stand up for a minute and hand in papers, do ten toe raises, etc.
Students make and use a crib card on tests. 3x5 card, both sides, in own handwriting Special arrangements for students with physical disabilities Use class time to work on first one; show examples of good cards Turn in card with test; spot check and return to students
Allow students to rework test errors for half credit Select multi-step problems. Students must recopy problem and show all solution steps. Use some class time to get started. Earn back half of lost points; maximum of 25 of 100-point test. Did not artificially raise course grades.
Did this solve all of my teaching problems? NOOOO… but it sure helped!