Movies and soap operas often dramatize what happens when someone’s memory is damaged or lost. Yet memory is another area of learning that is frequently misunderstood or oversimplified.

Memory actually includes three different kinds of mental processing. Short-term memory involves briefly recording new information that is quickly used, stored, or forgotten. Long-term memory has two parts: storing information in your mind (also known as “consolidation”), and accessing that information when it’s needed at a later time. A third—and very important—part is active working memory. It serves as the brain’s workspace, where different information is temporarily held and juggled to help you perform a particular task.

When it comes to memory, many of us have both strengths in and challenges. For example, you might be very good at recalling names, dates, and other information. At the same time, you might struggle with things that require you to remember and use lots of different information, such as writing a proposal or doing a calculation in your head.

Click on the following links to learn more about the parts of memory that are most important to learning:

Active Working Memory: Mentally Juggling Information

Long-Term Memory: Consolidating and Retrieving Information

 

Learn more

School places heavy demands on memory, and students with challenges in this area frequently struggle. Adults often find that success in the “real world” isn’t so closely linked to memory. However, the effects of aging on the mind, and in particular on memory, are a growing concern to many in our society. As a result, an increasing number of organizations offer tips, strategies, and “brain workouts” intended to strengthen and maintain memory. Here are two:

  • BrainConnection: a website with a variety of brain and mind-related information, including a series of brain teasers designed to strengthen memory, attention, and sound discrimination.
  • Lumosity: a subscription-based service (with a five-day free trial) offering a wide range of games and activities designed to strengthen attention, memory, and other areas that influence learning. 

 

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So what? Why understanding your learning strengths and challenges matters

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