Have you ever walked into the kitchen to get something, only to have your mind forget what? Or left the grocery store with everything on your mental list except the one thing you really needed for dinner?
Every day, we encounter the limitations of our working memory.
When your kids forget to brush their teeth or turn in their homework (that is sitting completed in their backpack), they are facing the same challenge. The answer is not lecturing, bribing, or berating; it’s helping kids understand their working memory and then build routines and workarounds to address its inherent limits.
What is Working Memory?
Working memory is basically a temporary holding area for our thoughts while we are using them. It’s also where we hold new information that comes at us — data that may or may not eventually find its way into our long-term memory.
Barbara Oakley, author of “Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying” describes working memory as an octopus sitting in our prefrontal cortex, juggling a set of balls. It can hold about four “balls” at once before they start dropping. As she told me in…