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The Science of Doing Homework (The end result will impress you)

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Your child is afraid to do homework. He or she is not motivated to work on it.

You might be pulling your hair off wondering how to encourage them to do their homework just once a week.

Or

Due to your strict discipline, your child might follow what you told them to do regardless. The child might do so reluctantly knowing that parents have the authority to control them.

Or

Your child crams everything all the practise one month before the exams, only to worry and regret why he or she did not do so earlier.

What if there is another way to motivate your child?

What if your child can motivate themselves without us nagging at them constantly?

Sometimes, I use scientific facts to motivate my students to do their homework.

How our brain functions when we do homework?

Pardon me while I bore you with some brain numbers (I promise to keep this as short as possible).

What is our brain cell?

Each of us has a brain. A brain has over 100 billion brain cells called neurons.

Each neuron controls a certain set of functions including learning and daily motoring skills such as eating and walking.

End of brain numbers (As promised, short and simple facts).

There are too many aspects to talk about here.

For your child, I will be focussing on learning.

What is the Science of Learning?

Each neuron contains the function to store the memory and process that information.

When your child is learning, the neurons in certain parts of the brain “zap” to life. There are many tiny electrical signals travelling between neurons as shown below:

Okay. I added the sound for dramatic effect.

When your child learns something new, new electrical signals are created and other groups of neurons become active.

Once the correct neurons are connected, the child learns and understand a new concept.

What happens to the neurons when a child learns science knowledge?

One way to understand concepts is to expose your child to various scenarios.

How does the brain process the information?

During the process of learning, neurons in your child’s brain are constantly sending electrical signals to other neurons.

Many times (due to the huge number of neurons), the electrical signals will land into wrong groups of neurons.

The brain is constantly trying to establish an electrical pathway to connect the correct neurons.

This is where you will see your child struggle to learn a new concept. It takes time to achieve mastery of that.

After some practice, the electrical signals are finally sent to the correct neurons. A new electrical connection is achieved between neurons.

Your child has finally understood the scientific knowledge and its application.

See picture below for illustration:

Different students have different speeds to process that scientific concept.

Some can achieve mastery of concepts much faster than the others.

Eventually, the students will understand the concepts.

That’s the importance of doing homework.

What happens when your child does not recap the concepts after some time?

This is important.

The brain needs time to form linkages between the correct neurons. Once the electrical pathways are connected, there is a need to reinforce that pathway.

When the child did not apply that concept for some time, the newly acquired knowledge will be forgotten easily.

I am sure you have encountered this before in your life. You have a streak of brilliance. An “Aha!” moment that you want to do right now.

Suddenly, you are distracted by some other stuff and you momentarily stop thinking about that. When you try to recap that “Aha” moment, you forgot what that is.

I encountered this too and I have spent a great deal of time and energy to try and recall what is that eureka moment. It can be pretty frustrating sometimes.

To counter this problem, I repeated that to-do list in my head a few times or I quickly take out my phone to type it out so I can refer to it sometime later.

Without practice, the newly created electrical pathway is not passed to other neurons. Over time, the electrical path becomes obsolete and the brain will automatically remove that pathway. That is why your child forgets science concepts.

Your child’s brain will allocate the electrical signals to the activities your child deems important such as “I want to know what happens to the main character in this drama” or “how can i complete this game puzzle?”

Hence, with the newly acquired science knowledge, it is great to reinforce that linkage through some homework and not let your child’s memory slip away.

Or if your child has doubts, clarify them as soon as possible before they forget about it. The neurons will not remember the electrical signals forever. Neurons will change when those electrical pathways are not reinforced.

*An illustration of what happens without practice.

To create that electrical path again, the child has to relearn the concepts. That will waste a lot of time.

Think of a muddy path when no one uses it. Eventually, the grass will cover up that path. The child will have a hard time using that path again as it is covered in a thick layer of grass.

*A muddy path

Unlike a child who is consistent, he or she will reinforce that electrical signals in the neurons and connect to other aspects of the science concepts. A student who falls back has to find and reconnect the neurons again.

What happens through consistent revision and practise?

As the child practice with existing concepts, it sends a strong confirmation to the brain that this is the correct understanding of concepts.

Your child’s brain will reinforce that concept by sending stronger and faster electrical signal to the neurons. This makes it harder to forget that concept.

“Teacher Andy, you have repeated this concept a few times already.” That is where I know my students have understood the concepts and is etched deep in their memory. I don’t believe they will forget it easily. I will stop repeating them after that.

Very soon, the brain processes the information with such speed that your child can quickly derive the answer.

*Electrical signal is stronger and faster

This is where it gets really interesting.

When the child is reminded of the concepts a few times, the electrical spark becomes stronger and the neuron muscles grow thicker over time. The neurons will create new pathways to connect to other neurons.

Eventually, the child will find a shortcut to link the concepts together. See the picture below:

Instead of linking 5 neurons, the neurons will discover a new pathway and only requires 4 neurons to process the information.

That’s where you can see your the child has mastered the concepts. He or she can explain them clearly with ease.

That’s why when a child practises, neurons will send electrical signals to many other neurons till a path is created. Eventually, the path becomes so strong and defined that it is so much faster to process that scientific information.

Months passed, the child who has consistent practice will look like this:

Okay, that is another dramatic effect.

It does not stop there!

Remember about the scientific fact where the brain has over 100 billion neurons? That is virtually unlimited connections out there!

Imagine what practise do to other parts of the brain.

The child’s brain will connect the dots by themselves.

The new path will generate new aspects of learning and understanding.

A healthy dose of homework instils some degree of discipline to your child. I feel discipline and not succumb to distraction are very important life skills.

The new path will then enabled your child to apply concepts learnt to many other aspects of his or her life.

The picture above can be the neurons of all of us (including your child)!

It takes consistency and targeted practice to achieve mastery of concepts.

Final note:

Please don’t tell your child to do tons of worksheets at one time. A healthy dose of training is good.

Imagine a person lifting a 100kg weight without any preparation or training beforehand, that will very likely sprain the muscles. The person will have to stop exercising for a very long time. We do not want that to happen.

Some kids can work faster while others work slower. That’s okay, so long as they are one step closer towards mastering science concepts. The point is don’t wait until exams are coming and the kid starts cramming them together. Learning becomes very painful.

Do it consistently and at a comfortable pace.

That way, the brain neurons will gradually develop and become stronger.

Most importantly, your child enjoys learning science.

Want your child to reduce the pain of forgetting science concepts?

Want your child to quickly clarify any lingering doubts about new concepts taught in school and not wait till exams are coming?

Want your child to do TARGETED practice and not waste time doing so many assessment books?

I am sure you want those.

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*Complete and comprehensive course based on the latest MOE Syllabus. The only Science online course your child needs.

* Unlimited homework help for your child to seek clarifications.

To end this post, I would like to take a quote from a person who uses scientific facts to overcome his fear of the dark:

” When I was a little kid, I was really scared of the dark. But then I came to understand, dark just means the absence of photons (particles that made up light) Then I thought, well it’s really silly to be afraid of a lack of photons. Then I wasn’t afraid of the dark anymore after that.”

Elon Musk, Founder of SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City.

Thanks for reading.

Talk again soon.

 

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