Monday, March 05, 2012

Children and Adults Use Different Networks to Solve Problems

When doing arithmetic problems, Stanford researchers found that children use different brain regions to solve problems. Children's decreased activity in the frontal lobes (executive function) was to be expected, but another striking finding was how important the right anterior insula was for children capturing attention, balancing working memory resources, and taking action to solve problems.

Perhaps salience networks are more important in general for children's problem solving. Rather than prefrontal-heavy strategies for learning and problem solving, we should be thinking about insula-activating use of novelty / engagement, emotion, reward anticipation, and even risk.

Last week we had the pleasure of having dinner with Katherine Schantz, Head of the Lab School in Washington DC. She was in Seattle because of the NAIS conference. She told us about a teacher who presented a science problem to her class which required each student to vote on what they thought would happen to a piece of metal with heating. Each student had to take a stand - and then students debated back and forth what they thought would happen. Eventually all shifted their votes to the correct answer - and the lesson was embedded in their long term memories. That's an insula teaching approach for sure. Not so different from Enrico Fermi's great lessons.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting implications for chess players.