Neuroscience: Improving Working Memory and Reducing Stress in Schools
January 2015

In This Issue

Schools Can Intervene Successfully for Students with ADHD 


Helping Students Recover From Trauma 


Neuroscience of Math 


Brain Plasticity and Early Childhood Education 



making a tax deductible

is here,




CEI is pleased to announce the winner of our 21st Century Technology Competition:  


Alleta Baltes   


She has been a principal for 20 years and currently serves Fremont County School District #25 as Director of Indian Education and Principal of    

Ashgrove School in Riverton, WY  

She received a $100 Gift Certificate. Ms. Baltes will be chairing a CEI Working Group to continue developing and piloting the revised version during 2015.


Congratulations Ms. Baltes!


Feb. 5
Q&A Session
Designed for
School Leaders  

STEAM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math

Information under Hot Topics (in the right-hand column) here!


NAESP Releases New Competencies for Leading Pre-K-3


This standards document defines new competencies for principals, and outlines a practical approach to high-quality early childhood education that is critical to laying a strong foundation for learning for young children from age three to grade three.



heart centered
 Single and bulk copies of Heart Beaming books for your schools.


Do your teachers and administrators need ideas for adapting  Common Core materials?
CEI has a web page devoted to many aids and links.
Click here!




Stu Tables

CEI offers a wide array of workshops with distinguished faculty who deliver timely, up-to-date workshops for schools and districts.
Check out the possibilities!

Hot Topics:
STEM, Reteaching, Neuroscience, Compassion
& many more.

 Newsletter editor:

Carolyn Lieberg 

Dear Educators:

How is your brain today? Are you feeling alert, energetic, organized, and confident of your skills? Or are you worried, intimidated, confused, tired, stressed or under pressure? What about your students? It is amazing that, given the focus on academic achievement, more attention has not been paid to how to use what we know about brain optimization to promote brain efficiency and learning. With brain scans and MRIs, researchers are able to document the impact of various conditions and interventions on brain activity in specific regions of the brain, setting the stage for 21st century neuroscientific applications in classrooms and more.
In this issue of Wow! we discuss the importance of working memory by considering challenges for students with ADHD, those who have undergone trauma, and those who experience math anxiety or struggle with mathematical operations. Because early development is a time of brain malleability, we also review the potential to help young children by specific brain-focused activities for preschoolers. It is my hope that perhaps something in this edition of Wow! will stimulate your interest or your curiosity to consider how you could be doing more to support all the brains in your school.


Working Memory, ADHD and a Non-Invasive Cost-Effective Intervention for Schools: Yale's C8 Science "ACTIVATE"

By Carolyn Lieberg, Christine Mason, Suzan Mullane, and Elijah Mercer

The human brain, similar to the muscles in the human body, is very receptive to training (Godman, 2014). Could it be that practice builds brain capacity just like weight building builds strength? Why is it that some people can navigate through the most complex mazes and others get lost trying to find a store a few blocks away? While innate abilities certainly play a role, evidence suggests that habits and routines also make a difference. Consider London taxi drivers, who must learn 25,000 streets to qualify for a cab license. Do you imagine that their brains may be wired differently than those of subway riders or everyday drivers? Maguire, Gadian, Johnsrude, et al. (2000), in examining MRIs for the London cabbies, found that the anterior hippocampi (the part of the brain that stores spatial information) of these drivers had literally grown in volume. The men who had driven longest had the largest hippocampi. The impact of other activities on brain structures has also been confirmed. To cite one example: the brains of professional violinists, when compared with non-players, reveal right-larger-than-left asymmetry of the motor and somatosensory cortex (Schwenkreis, El Tom, Ragert, et al., 2007).  Could this be an emerging priority for school curricula and instruction?


Building Brain Functions. The implications of cognitive activities or "brain training" are significant. While not all activities or training have an equal impact, with specific training, more neuron growth can occur. This includes growth in the area known as the prefrontal cortex, home of the vital "working memory." Working memory, the name given to the process of storing and managing information temporarily in order to carry out complex cognitive tasks, is one of eight domains of executive functioning. [See the final article for another definition of working memory and a graphic that illustrates it.] A strong working memory, particularly in the early grades, is the number one indicator of school success. It is reported to be even a greater predictor than I.Q. (Alloway & Alloway, 2010).

The Relationship of Working Memory to Learning and Learning Difficulties. While strong working memory is critical to school success, poor working memory is correlated with myriad problems for students and the teachers who serve them; the outcome is often stress for all stakeholders (Beilock 2011). High stress standardized testing is one area where memory patterns differ. In Bielock's study, the researchers divided children into two groups: low and high pressure. The low pressured students were told to do their best on a given test scenario, while the high pressured population was offered the money equivalent to the value of scholarships they could earn for high performance. They were also told they would undergo evaluation by parents, teachers, and peers.  The high pressure group experienced a lower rate of accuracy on math questions.    

ADHD, Its Correlates, and Working Memory. What is the relationship between working memory and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)? Sadie Dingfelder, writing for the American Psychological Association, cites the work of Rosemary Tannock, a psychologist and psychiatry professor at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto:   


"It could be that working-memory problems give rise to observable behavioral symptoms of ADHD: distractibility and also poor academic achievement." Working memory deficits might also underpin some reading disabilities, as it controls the ability to recall words read earlier in a sentence, says Tannock. People with ADHD tend to have difficulty with working-memory capacity, and that deficit could be responsible for their tendency to be distracted, and resulting problems at school (Dingfelder,2005, quoting Tannock). 


Applying Neuroscience.  To help students, schools look for interventions that are both effective and offer ease of implementation, preferably assistance without special education interventions and a comprehensive psychological report. While several neurocognitive programs are available today, their impact varies. At CEI we are continuing to research results from various programs. At this point we have been collaborating with Dr. Bruce Wexler of Yale University, founder of ACTIVATE, and his colleagues at C8 Sciences. Our reasons for supporting Dr. Wexler relate primarily to the remarkable learning gains obtained with ACTIVATE (see articles on C8 in previous newsletters; September 2013). Several features distinguish ACTIVATE from other neurocognitive programs, including the algorithms that Dr. Wexler used to design the program, its logic base, and the inclusion of related physical activities that are designed to strengthen the same neuropathways as the computerized lessons.


C8 Sciences has just launched a new version of its program, ACTIVATE 2.0. With its new version, C8 Sciences has increased the intrinsic motivation that students enjoy in the  programs by adding two games. The new version of ACTIVATE also includes an area in cognitive brain training known as Spatial Working Memory. By partnering with some leading online game designers to improve graphics and extend the games to a broader age range, the new ACTIVATE lessons are designed to offer a more engaging experience for students (PRWeb, 2014 Nov 25).


The researchers at C8 Sciences measure results from their ACTIVATE  program in two primary ways: by measuring the growth in cognitive skills and by measuring improvement in academic (real world) performance. The assessment is administered online, which streamlines data collection. The data are analyzed with complex computations that deliver numerical values on the eight core cognitive capacities; these results need a minimum of 1000 minutes of training.


The following results demonstrate some of the strengths of the ACTIVATE program:


(1) Results from a National Institutes of Health study (Leckman & Wexler, 2014) demonstrated that with ACTIVATE, working memory increased for all students. This research was funded by a Director's Office Grant by the National Institutes of Health in order to study the use of this product for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), working memory, executive function and ADHD in the classroom.



 (2) ACTIVATE users are reporting significant gains in academic improvement. As an example, the following results were from a 1st grade class in an urban high-poverty school district using a Pearson assessment. In the figures below math and reading scores increased significantly for students using ACTIVATE. The program was administered classwide and the data are for all students. In fact, proficiency (shown in green) increased by as much as 73 points in mathematics and 28 points in reading for the class where ACTIVATE was implemented, comparing extremely favorably to districtwide growth of only 18 points in math and 17 points in reading.  For the figure below the at-risk (shown in yellow) and students in need of improvement (shown in red) were also dramatically reduced with the ACTIVATE group.


(3) Physical Exercises. One of the unique features of ACTIVATE is a blending with computer activities and  physical exercises designed to stimulate and develop the same cognitive skills. "A Michigan State University study confirms that symptoms such as inattentiveness, mood swings, and poor social skills can be improved with just 30 minutes of physical activity each morning before school. The study took place over a 12-week period and examined 200 elementary-school students, some of whom showed signs of ADHD and some of whom did not." (PRWeb, 2014 Nov 4).    

(4) Consistently Strong Results. Recent results are also supported by the initial C8 Sciences studies on its earlier version of ACTIVATE, C8Kids. In the earlier study in Bristol, Connecticut, the first school in the U.S. to pilot C8Kids, school administrators noted highly effective results. For four months, three days weekly, students K-3 participated in 45 minutes of games after school. Children who participated had significant improvement in their working memories. Read more here.
Considerations for Schools. While the application of programs such as ACTIVATE in schools is still in its infancy, for children who are experiencing difficulties with focusing, learning, and retaining knowledge and skills, these programs may well be the secret ingredients that will lead to healing in ways we are only beginning to realize. Consider the possibilities. If changes in the brain's neuropathways can be modified to enhance learning, imagine the future for youth who are today experiencing endless cycles of frustration.

As educators consider the "must haves" as they compile their wish lists for next year's budgets, where will neurocognitive programs fall? What are the ramifications of waiting one more year?  How much more documentation is necessary? At CEI we suggest that any school that is debating whether to pilot a cognitive neuroscience program simply go online and look at the available data. It is important to consider the data for the specific program that is being considered. Look at these data and compare them to "typical" growth with whatever instructional program or new curricula you are considering. Then think about the differences in potential academic and cognitive gains and ask yourself, "is it better to wait one more year?"



Alloway, T.P. & Alloway, R.G. (2010) Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment.

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 106(1): 20-9.


Alloway, T.P. & Gathercole, E. (2006). How does working memory work in the classroom? Educational Research and Reviews,1(4), pp. 134-139.


Bielock, S. (2011). Back to school: Dealing with academic stress. Retrieved from


Dingfelder, S. (2005). A workout for working memory. Retrieved from


Godman, H. (2014, April 9) Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Health Letter. Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from


Leckman, J. & Wexler, B. (2014) Non-published data from NIH-funded project on ADHD and Neuroscience. New Haven, CT: Yale University.


Maguire, EA, Gadian, D.G., Johnsrude, I.S., Good, C.D., Ashburner, J., Frackowiak, R.S.J. & Frith, C.D. (2001) Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Crossmark. Vol. 97, No. 8, 4398-4403, doi: 10.1071/pnas.07003959


PRWeb (2014, Nov 25) C8Sciences' executive function training program debuts new softward features for children with ADHD in the classroom. New Haven, CT. Retrieved from

PRWeb (2014, Nov 4) ACTIVATE's Unique Approach to ADHD Therapy Corroborated by Recent Studies. New Haven, CT. Retrieved from 


Neuroscience: Aiding Children Who Have Experienced Trauma, by Improving Learning 

By Suzan Mullane, M. S. Ed., CEI Research Associate

Education is the movement from darkness to light--Allan Bloom


The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind--Kahlil Gibran


As our understanding of the brain's neuroplasticity increases, scientists and educators are coming to realize that exercises to enhance brain functioning can facilitate learning. Similar brain exercises can also help strengthen the prefrontal cortex to assist individuals who have been traumatized. Dr. Bruce Wexler, a cognitive neuroscientist from Yale University, has been pioneering the research and programs.


Although negative childhood experiences (trauma) can adversely affect learning and healthy brain development, because human brains are malleable (neuroplasticity), recovery and improvement are both possible. Wexler says brain strengthening works. 


The degree to which our brains are shaped after birth from stimulation from the environment is truer in humans than any other animal. Brain strengthening is especially important in the case of children who come from poor backgrounds and subsequently struggle in school (Disare, 2012).


Another researcher, Dr. Richard Davidson, from the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, has investigated neuroplasticity from the viewpoint of mindful meditation. In Davidson's study, even gene expression can be improved at any age. Health benefits included lowering of inflammation at a cellular level with significant stress reduction.  


Wexler and Davidson bring encouraging news to educators and parents, particularly those who deal with children who have had experiences of a traumatic nature.

Nearly half of US children have experienced one or more adverse childhood experiences according to the National Survey on Children's Health 

According to the Aces Too High group that studies adverse childhood experiences, nearly 35 million children fall into the category. Chronic stress can negatively impact brain development and learning.  
How to detect children who have experienced trauma? These indicators have been compiled by the American Psychological Association and National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
  • acting irritable or moody
  • withdrawing from activities that used to give them pleasure
  • routinely expressing worries
  • complaining more than usual about school
  • crying
  • displaying surprising fearful reactions
  • clinging to a parent or teacher
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • eating too much or too little
  • dramatic change in school attendance
  • dramatic change in grades.

School interventions might be an effective line of defense to mitigate chronic childhood stress. How can educators help move children into the light while still engaging them intellectually? Eric Jensen, in his book, Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain, believes in the power of changing students' brains for the greater good. Movement is part of Jensen's engagement prescription; so too are positive relationships.


Teacher-student relationships can be a moderate-to-strong changer of student behaviors. Student-teacher relationships have a blockbusting 0.72 effect size in promoting student achievement (p. 24, ch 2 Hattie, 2011, quoted in Jensen & Snider, 2013).


Students in crisis need teachers and administrators who display consistent positive regard and respect. Schools that focus on trauma sensitivity for all students are gaining attention, with some experts considering further research and training for school leaders. 


Networking within professional school learning communities, similar to the personalized learning approach used in Finland, can assist in identifying students "flying under the radar"; at the same time, teachers can collaborate/plan hands-on learning lessons that have an emphasis on movement and self-discovery. Movement is a respite from stress.


Sensitivity to childhood trauma still requires classroom rigor. "Nurturing" to protect hurting students from challenging work (i.e., lowering expectations) is not helpful. Conversely, personalized learning to engage relevant critical thinking skills is desperately needed. To teach vulnerable kids to inquire critically, beyond the confines of: family circumstances, socioeconomic conditions, chronic health problems, even stereotypes, can empower them and generate a new mindset.

Need ideas for resiliency literature? Consider Carnegie's link for extensive bibliotherapy themes.
For additional professional development resources, review the Toolkit developed by National Child Traumatic Stress Network.



Disare, M. (2012, October 17). Yale psychiatrists build education program.  Yale Daily News. New Haven, CT: Yale University.
Hattie, J. (2011). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. New York: Routledge.

Jensen, E. & Snider, C. (2013) Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Mind. New York: Jossey-Bass.
The Neuroscience of Math and Overcoming Potential Challenges

by Lindsay Reeves, CEI Intern, and Christine Mason, Executive Director, CEI  
How do students process information to solve math problems? Is it innate intelligence, exposure to complex problems, practice and feedback, or some other factor that propels some students forward while others struggle with math concepts and operations? While we are uncovering more each day about learning and math, we offer the following as food for thought.


Connected Hemispheres. A popular conception has been that the left hemisphere of the brain is associated with linear tasks, such as math, and the right hemisphere is associated with creativity. In actuality, how the brain processes information to solve problems is more complex. Brain imaging studies have demonstrated not only that the parietal cortex (right and left  sections near the back of the brain; the former attends to estimations of concrete objects, and the latter, to precise numerical calculations) is activated when presented with numerical information, but that the connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is critical.


According to recent research, when a brain encounters a complex problem, like a word problem, for example, a strengthened connection between the hemispheres is more likely to produce a correct response. Similarly, those with tighter connections respond faster overall (University of Texas, 2012). These findings lead researchers to wonder if activities to strengthen this connectivity could lead to enhanced math performance.  


How can educators stimulate brain activity and promote better math problem solving? Murray Bourne, an Australian, living in Singapore, who is a former secondary teacher, trainer, web developer, and self-professed math enthusiast with several fascinating blog posts, has the following suggestions for students:

  • Read over the whole problem
  • Write down information the question provides
  • Search for what the question is asking for
  • Identify the math required
  • Perform the math required
  • Triple check the answer (Bourne, 2008).

Strategy Learning. It is important to note that not all students learn at the same pace or by the same techniques. This is confirmed by casual observation of classes as well as neuroscience. Because neural pathways differ in strength and capability, it is often advantageous to promote strategy learning.


For example, two children may both answer that 10 plus 10 equals 20, but if one child has memorized this fact while the other is applying the strategy of double-digit addition, the children are engaging distinctly different neural circuitry(Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, 2007).


Overcoming Anxiety. What about math anxiety? There is much that needs to be said about aversion to math. Recent research has shown that there is a correlation between perceived math anxiety and actual pain. However, it is not actually the numerical-related processing that causes problems. "The brain activation does not happen during math performance, suggesting that it is not the math itself that hurts -- rather the anticipation of math is painful" (Wood, 2012). This kind of pain can be likened to burning one's hand on a hot stove. Since this effect produces a physiological response, there are other practical ways that may help alleviate some of this stress.


Teachers can do a lot to assist students in overcoming or handling math anxiety. Most important is to help students experience success by differentiating instruction so that children are challenged but not defeated by math. Scaffolding, prompting, and presenting the appropriate "dose" of math so students are not overwhelmed by an endless list of math problems, are all helpful. Pairing the appropriate level of instruction with encouragement, constructive feedback and praise are all important.   


Educators can also encourage students to:

  • Learn stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Combat negative thinking
  • Visualize success
  • Do "easiest" problems first
  • Channel stress into something else
  • Start preparing early
  • Eat and sleep well
  • Try to understand the "why" of math concepts rather than memorizing
  • Find a support group
  • Reward hard work (Anoka-Ramsey Community College, 2011)

Understanding neuroscience can help educators design appropriate interventions for students who struggle with math; however, the real results are found within the classroom. While many students may learn math with traditional instruction, and others may require specific prompts or assists, there are other students who are "naturally gifted." Although there is some credence to this claim, the ability of any child to overcome obstacles associated with learning deficits and to excel should never be underestimated. With our increasing understanding of neuroscience, we may find that math anxiety will fall by the wayside as educators build on student strengths and use our increasing knowledge to provide more adaptive math instruction. This is indeed 21st Century learning.




Anoka-Ramsey Community College. (2011, February 10). High anxiety of the math variety. Retrieved from


Bourne, M. (2008, July 2). Math problem solving and brain activity. Square CircleZ. Retrieved from 


Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2007). Understanding the Brain: The birth of a learning science. Retrieved from


University of Texas at Dallas News Center. (2012, August 30). Study links math abilities to left-right brain communication. Retrieved from  


Wood, J. (Ed.). (2012, November 1). With math anxiety, the brain feels the pain. PsychCentral. Retrieved from 


Brain Plasticity and Early Childhood Education


by Danait Berhe, CEI Intern and Christine Mason, Executive Director, CEI  

According to a Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child (2014) brief on the development and foundation of brain architecture, brain malleability or neuroplasticity is greater when children are young. The brain's neural pathways and connections change or are altered based on the information received or an individual's experience. Strong neural connections formed by quality information, repeated stimulation and practice become thick, strong and permanent and produce substantial results linking the various parts of the brain in children and later on in adulthood. Neural connections are strengthened by stimulation; children who have less experience, whether it be actually physical experiences or experiences with language, have weaker neural connections. Over time these connections, if not used, die or are "pruned." (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2014)   


Implications for Education. With the recent call for Universal Preschool (Preschool for All Initiative, 2013) comes an opportunity to provide important learning experiences for children. We recognize that it is often one thing to read and talk about something (such as the ocean or zoo animals) and it is another to actually visit a zoo or walk along a beach. Concrete experiences help to strengthen neural pathways by providing more direct multi-sensory experiences. Feeling an ocean breeze, or hearing a tiger roar will embed knowledge more directly. Similarly, children who experience "water play" in preschool classrooms will have fun and be excited in a way that cannot be replicated by simply reading about how much fun it is to play in the water.  Preschool provides a prime opportunity for children to catch up, enhancing their lives and setting their brains up for success in school and later. As universal preschool is implemented, experiences need to be designed with cognitive skills in mind.


The proposed Universal Preschool initiative aims to benefit all children; however, it is particularly expected to benefit children from families with low socio-economic status. Children from impoverished environments often enter school at a disadvantage; they have had fewer life experiences that promote language expansion and conceptual development. Programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start provide much needed structure to increase experiences with language and books. These programs also build social skills. Centers and classroom activities that are designed for exploration, creativity, and structured play are critical to providing experiences to build neural pathways that form the basis for later learning, problem solving, and development.


While preschool programs provide many benefits, programs that include a cognitive skill component may be particularly important. Curricula that have been designed to promote and train children's cognitive skills have also been associated with improved academic performance, reducing the academic achievement gap (Blair & Raver, 2014; Farag & Boyes, 2012). Early childhood curricula that consider cognitive development are effective because the programs:

  • Incorporate activities that build on children's multiple intelligences (visual-spatial, musical, mathematical-logical, verbal-linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, existential, naturalist, interpersonal, intrapersonal)
  • Improve higher order thinking skills (remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, creating) in children
  • Leverage brain plasticity during a critical developmental period
  • Improve children's executive function skills (inhibitory control, working memory and mental flexibility)
  • Promote success, building on children's strength, and improve self-esteem; this buffers against the effect of negative self-perception on academic achievement

Working Memory and Academic Achievement Gap. One cognitive ability that is worth training in young children is working memory. Working memory, which is referred as the "mental blackboard" of the brain is defined as the "ability that allows children to maintain and manipulate information, remember sequences of numbers, and is associated with complex reasoning" (Farag and Boyes, 2012). Working memory is malleable and is one of the executive functions that helps children keep track of what they are being taught, an essential skill linked to improving academic performance.


Self-Perception, Motivation and Academic Achievement. Knowing about brain plasticity is not only beneficial to early childhood educators, it is beneficial to students as well (Bernard, 2010).  As Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck ( 2007 ) have reported, students' morale, grade points, and academic performance improved when students understood the malleability of intelligence. According to the results of their longitudinal study, when students realized that they could physically change their brain and improve their intelligence through study, practice and hard work, they stopped internalizing negative self-perception and were motivated to improve their academic achievement.


Cognitive Training, Executive Functioning Skills in Early Childhood Education. Cognitive training, such as training that promotes children's executive functioning skills is highly beneficial. Executive functioning skills allow to avoid distractions, pay attention, hold relevant information in their working memories, and regulate their impulsive behavior (Galinsky, 2014). In a recent study of almost 800 kindergarten children in 29 schools, Blair and Raver (2014) evaluated the impact of Tools of the Mind (Bodrova & Leong, 2007), a curriculum, that promotes executive functioning. They reported that kindergartners who participated in Tools of the Mind classrooms showed gains in reading, mathematics and vocabulary, as well as improvement in their capacity to focus, pay attention, avoid distraction, remember, process information, and control their impulses.


The Tools of the Mind curriculum was evaluated by Blair and Raver. The instructional philosophy that inspired the work was that of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky but also rooted in neuropsychological research on the cognitive and social-emotion self-regulation/executive functions of children. Watch for a coming blog post that explores the program more fully.   

Note: Tools of the Mind's literacy and mathematics practices meet state standards and early learning guidelines for kindergarten and preschool and are aligned with Common Core State Standards for kindergarten English Language Arts and Mathematics.




Bernard, S. (2010). Neuroplasticity: Learning physically changes the brain. How lessons and experiences can shape and grow your student's brain over time. Retrieved from 


Blair, C. & Raver, C. C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function: Results from a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. PloS one, 9 (11). Retrieved from 


Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. J. (2007). Tools of the mind: the Vygotskian approach to early childhood education (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice Hall.


Center on the Developing Child. (2014). Key concepts: Brain architecture. Harvard University.Retrieved from  


Center on the Developing Child. (2014). Three core concepts on early development. ExperiencesBuild Brain Architecture. Retrieved from  


Fact Sheet: President Obama's Plan for early education for all Americans. (2013). The White House. Retrieved from 


Farag, J., & Boyes, M. (2012). Understanding neuroscience to improve education. Journal of Young Investigators, (24), 1, 1-7. Retrieved from  


Galinsky, E. (2014). Neuroscience improves early childhood education quality.

Huffington Post. Retrieved from 


Leong, D.J. & Bodrova, E. (2012) Assessing and scaffolding make-believe play. Young Children, 67 (1), pp. 28-34. Retrieved from   



Stimulating brain activity,


Isn't it amazing that sometimes the very thing that has grabbed our attention and our dedicated efforts may prove to be the the slow path to learning? Consider standardized tests. The long route, or detour, for some children may be repeated experiences with tasks that are hard or uninteresting -- even tasks dictated by curriculum pacing guides.The paradox is that sometimes working on motivation, adding pizzazz, or even different tasks intended to rebuild neural pathways, may result in greater long-term gains than with repeated efforts with the tasks per se. Sometimes blockages to learning inhibit memory and cognition. To overcome the blockages, sometimes new information or activities, or a different approach, is required


What do you know about the brains in your school?  Could a climate change, addition of a brain-based program, or perhaps even a more personalized approach to student learning be what is needed to move forward with more learning, more engagement, and even perhaps more excitement about learning? 

Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
CEI is collaboraating with the NAESP Foundation to bring innovations to school leaders.
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