The mind is a powerful force. (David Cuschieri)

– Desiree Panlilio

Our brain works on the “use it or lose it” idea. How many of us could write down the quadratic formula and solve a problem just like that? The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand. The brain is constantly building and reconditioning neural pathways. The pathways that are used the most usually get well-established and stronger. The pathways that are not used get built over. Think about it in terms of habits. We all have habits, and some things we do not even think about anymore. How hard do you have to concentrate to brush your teeth or tie your shoes? The neural pathways on which these activities reside are well established. Often people say the activity is ingrained in us. That is why when we want to change a habit or create a new habit it takes time. Our brains have to develop a neural pathway for the new habit or you have to work at stopping or changing a bad habit.

The learning of our teen is not any different. They are massively creating neural pathways, and where those pathways are not yet created you may see that the fluidity in the subject is not quite there. That is why it may take you a while to work out a math equation you have not done in a while. When it comes to the brain, the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, definitely applies.

What does that mean for our teens learning and studying? It means that repetition in learning the same material is very effective in helping teens to learn and retain information. Reviewing notes in detail following each class, or at minimum sometime during the day before you go to bed, will greatly increase your teens ability to recall what they have learned. Students who review their notes within a day recallabout 75% of what they’d been taught. Students who did not review their notes following class were not able to recall even 50% of the information covered during the lecture after one day. The fact of the matter is that we learn and remember through repetition.

I tell teens to whom I teach study skills that during the review of your notes add any additional information you recall from class lecture or add questions in the margins of your notes to help you study the material later. During your review of your notes you may also find that you don’t understand some of the information you wrote down. Make a note, and follow up with your teacher. I also encourage specific techniques based on the subject. It is the constant integration of new material to the old material and the repetition of review that helps our teens to gain and retain the knowledge that they are learning at school. The easy way to think of this is to recall your favorite song. Now you can hear it in your mind, and you know the words. That is because you have heard it so often and it is such an important part of your memories and brain that it is easy to recall the information. For your teen, in learning new information the same idea or repetition needs to be utilized to help your teen store the memory and then to be able to recall and add to the information.