By Linda Shiue
The new school year has started. Do you know how your children are studying?
Conventional wisdom for effective studying techniques includes a clear desktop in a quiet space, a homework schedule, and a routine.
Turns out, these tried and true techniques from folk wisdom are in many cases the exact opposite of what science would recommend.
Research findings summarized in a recent New York Times article can help everyone from a third grader learning multiplication tables to a retiree learning to speak Dutch.
Here are a few techniques for smarter studying that have science to back them up:
1) Study in varied settings-- A change of background can lead your brain to form more complex associations and in turn, stronger memories.
2) Cross-train your brain-- instead of memorizing the same set of ideas over and over, study related but different material in a study session. By allowing the brain to compare and contrast rather than simply focusing on one concept, the associations formed appear to be stronger. This is similar to physical benefits of the cross-training athletes do.
3) Study often and repeat; don't cram. Cramming may help with immediate recall, but does a poor job with later retention.
4) Don't be afraid of a challenge. Difficult subjects or tests will actually help your brain to learn. This is a concept called "desirable difficulty," which essentially means that the harder it is to remember something, the harder it is to later forget.
Photo credit: Wellcome Images-- University Children's Hospital, Vienna: children learning ge