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My daughter is now 10 and was recently given an IQ test. This was a comprehensive, 2 hour test administered by a child psychologist who specialises in gifted children. Her results were highly asymmetrical. Her verbal skills (vocabulary and comprehension) were rated very high but her short term memory was below average. The sort of testing given was to ask the her to remember 5 digits and recall them in reverse order. This is by far her weakest aspect and seems to be dragging her down.

What games, practices and training can I give her to help improve her short term memory? Given she is such a verbal creature, getting her to recite random numbers will be a hard sell.

Clarification: My daughter was being tested as it had been suggested by several teachers that she may be "gifted." This is generally defined as having an IQ of 130+, though mildly gifted can be defined as 115-130 range. Her language/comprehension skills maxed out the test, which only handles IQ up to 145. Her memory test, however, was below average. I believe that is a bit of an aberration caused by nervousness as her memory is not that bad, but memory is still the weakest part of the test. The asymmetry of the results surprised even the psychologist.

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Have you considered an over-all evalutation? She may be twice-exceptional with some sort of deficit (I have tons of experience with these kids) and they really are challenging to teach and parent, but so wonderful and so full of personality! –  balanced mama Dec 7 '12 at 21:54
    
try lumosity.com. It's a payed service, but it worth it. They give you games to train memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem solving. You can set what are the areas where you want to concentrate the most. It's fun because you just play games. It helped me to improve my memory( i'm 30 yo :) ) I'm sure kids would like this type of learning. –  Nat Jan 11 '13 at 22:12

7 Answers 7

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Some techniques that can be used at any age to improve short term memory include:

  • Song lyrics: After listening once, try to sing it. Poetry works as well. Try finding something lyrical or witty and this won't seem like studying.
  • Number memorization: Some people enjoy memorizing digits of pi (i.e. read more digits, see how many one can remember, repeat), but much more common is to remember telephone numbers. Have your child take responsibility for calling relatives. The numbers will eventually migrate to long term memory, so you may need to find other numbers, leading to...
  • Card games: There are many types of games, and remembering what someone else has played (or what's been played overall) is a good way to work on both strategy and memory.
  • Other games: Mastermind, Memory, Battleship, checkers, and chess will all work on short term memory. In some of the games, uncertainty and the inability to observe opponents' state will require short term memory for good strategy. In other games, like Chinese checkers, checkers and chess, the memory is used to quickly re-access previous "evaluations" for subsequent moves. [Strategy and planning is actually using "working memory" rather than short term memory, but the two are often related, and there's a possibility that the working memory was not tested. See this article if you're interested in the distinctions.]
  • Music: Learning to play an instrument or sing a song will develop long term memory and short term memory is developed along the way.
  • Visual short term memory can be exercised with things like jigsaw puzzles ("where was that piece...").
  • Spatial memory might be developed by hiding and finding objects in some order. I'm not aware of any particular games for this, but I could imagine a "hide it and find it" kind of challenge. Now where did I put my keys... :) Actually, this is quite useful in life - remember that when we're driving, we have to remember the locations of other vehicles with a minimum of error and effort. Some video games that involve finding objects as part of an adventure may be good for spatial recollection (not age appropriate, but "Assassin's Creed" comes to mind). I don't know what would be an age-appropriate experience like remembering other drivers while driving a car, though, and yet that's quite a good challenge for adults. :)
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All good answers but I reckon this set will work best with my lass. –  dave Dec 17 '11 at 21:35
    
I later realized that it's also good to avoid things that downplay or harm short term memory; these are often stimuli that tend to abuse attention. Attention and memory are related, and developing attentiveness will allow more "stuff" to make its way into short term memory. It's hard to remember what one didn't observe in the first place. :) –  Iterator Dec 18 '11 at 0:53
    
There is no research support for the assertion that any of these activities will generally improve short term memory, a.k.a. working memory. Think of working memory as akin to RAM in a computer. Instead, what one may develop within a specific domain is chunking ability or other strategies that can aid recall; this is not the same as working memory. –  Iucounu Jan 11 '13 at 20:17

I encountered a similar, almost parallel, situation with my child. I first tried:

  • Computer Memory games (Learning Rx, Webkinz, Luminosity)
  • The Board games mentioned above (12-17-2011) are excellent

Then I had a Eureka moment. I ultimately treated the Whole Child with the following intervention techniques, which yielded vast improvement. What helped the most was:

  • Change to a Nitrate-free diet
  • Change to organic fruits and vegetables to detoxify
  • Check all blood levels: cholesterol, Vitamin D, gluten sensitivity, etc.
  • De-stress life (don't overbook child or parent)
  • Listen to child 20-30 minutes each night
  • Watch funny-TV together for only 30 minutes each night
  • Treadmill or other physical activity for 30 minutes
  • When possible, let child choose activities, electives, etc.
  • No electronics or TV, other than the therapies mentioned, on school nights, and limit to 1 hour twice on weekend.
  • Cut out all fast food and drastically reduce sugars, including soft drinks.

In less than 6 months, memory, executive function, math scores and social abilities increased.

Steering a child toward positive relationships with friends, family members and teachers also will help quality of life and boost memory function. Yelling, or other negative interactions, can potentially shrink the hippocampus and raise cortisol levels.

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A great answer, I love the whole child approach –  user4784 Nov 28 '13 at 2:54

A small adjunct to the answers, which all offer good advice. This is a voice of caution and balance, only. I would recommend making whatever you do fun. As the moment it becomes a chore, 90% of your efforts to improve learning capacity are gone.

Pushing children can be very counterproductive. It is important to discern which areas children need to be pushed and in which areas encouraged. Yes, push them to brush their teeth.

Also it's an arbitrary test, I wouldn't put too much heed in an IQ test on a 9 year old. Success in life has little to do with the results of an IQ test. In a child whom you regarded as normal until this test, I wouldn't be in a panic to try and rectify a problem that isn't really there. Being mindful that psychological tests come and go, in and out of fashion. People have managed to get by without them.

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It his highly questionable whether working memory training can yield long-lasting benefits at all. Note that training such as memorizing digits of pi may well (at least temporarily) increase performance on those specific tasks, but not yield any general improvement. Thus if you want to memorize pi, memorize pi, but don't expect to get smarter overall. For what it's worth, there is free and paid brain-training software available.

If your daughter's working memory score, which you feel is an underestimate, is within about one standard deviation of the mean, note that it is considered to be normal. Also note that having average or even below average working memory and processing speed scores is not at all unusual for gifted children. Sometimes it can be evidence of a learning disability (for which the proper remedy is consultation with an expert, not a web search for home training). Sometimes it is just part of a spiky cognitive profile, as people have varying degrees of well-roundedness.

I question the results of the testing partly because modern IQ tests are not limited to a ceiling of 145. If your tester used an out-of-date test of some sort, the results are highly questionable, partly because such tests need renorming every so often and because good-quality professional testers don't use inappropriate tests.

There is somewhat of an obsession with IQ testing of children in the U.S. lately, and it seems to be increasing. This is unavoidable to some degree because of the existence of programs requiring IQ and achievement test scores at a certain level for entry. While I understand the sources of that source of angst, I think people should relax a bit and realize that children are as they were, just that certain types of empirical data about them are now achievable with greater precision than in the past.

I wouldn't worry about your daughter's working memory unless it is an actual problem. In what way is it dragging her down, besides affecting her full-scale IQ score? If you suspect that your daughter has a learning disability (LD), which doesn't sound like it is the case, follow up with additional testing and/or a second opinion, preferably from someone who specializes in LDs.

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I am unclear about a few things in your question however I think I can lend some advice to the stack.

First of all, you say that the 'tester' specializes in gifted children, were you having your daughter tested because she fits into this category? If so, is her short term memory age appropriate and just not above average like in other areas? These clarifications may make it easier for us to help you and for you to help yourself, think of things in perspective.

In terms of short term memory and/or attention issues first you need to think about the test. Give yourself that type of memory test after sitting with a stranger doing problems and answering questions for an hour and see how you do!!!!

But, in terms of what you can do--play games with her! Age/intelligence appropriate games of any sort. Let's use Monopoly or Chess as two popular examples (although any game would do). Think of all the academic skills she will be practicing (I know this is not your concern but is a nice side benifit). Think of all the face time she will get with you (again not your concern here but a nice side benefit). Think about the need to sit until the end of the game (attention). Think about the memory needed to know what is going on while having a conversation with you (side benefit of face time as mentioned above)--keeping track of the game and the conversation is a real life short term memory test!

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I've added clarifications above. Chess sounds like a great idea as it will also exercise her processing speed. We used to play backgammon (Russian rules, of coarse) - we should probably start that again. –  dave Dec 16 '11 at 18:40

The first thing I thought of while reading your question was that this might be an attention issue and not a memory issue. So I agree with @Tim regarding making sure this is the case. My son has attention problems and you would think he has absolutely zero short term memory sometimes. Really, he's just not listening (even though he might repeat what you say). Other times, his short term memory is insanely good. A long test seems like the perfect disincentive to giving effort to paying attention...

Having said that, what works really well to improve short term memory is math. I understand "getting her to recite random numbers will be a hard sell," however, I assume she is learning math in school anyway. Have her do the work in her head. It will exercise her working and short term very well and make her much more comfortable with the math. The "sell" will be getting her work done and she'll see that she's soon able to get it done faster. Part of the speed improvement will be her better understanding of the math that's required to do everything in your head.

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Attention is likely an issue. She has great recall of facts. Random numbers (test: A 7 Z 4 P 2, repeat the numbers) is rather arbitrary and difficult even for me. –  dave Dec 16 '11 at 18:43
    
I agree with these - it is hard to remember what one didn't pay attention to in the first place. Developing observation and attention skills is also very important. –  Iterator Dec 18 '11 at 0:54

Are you sure that memory and not attention span is the problem here? I'd try some of the classic games, like "Memory" (tile matching) with some extra incentives to find out.

For instance, with every match she gets, daddy does something extremely silly. Make the reward as creative and fun as you can. The game itself is not likely to engross her, but -you should be able to.

At nine years old a lot of mind wandering is expected, it's only alarming and perhaps problematic if your child is having trouble completing assigned tasks. If that's not the case, then I wouldn't worry about it too much.

In other words, don't get overly concerned that your child's attention wandered a lot during a boring two hour long test. Still, simple games that exercise the brain in a fun way can never hurt, especially if you make them memorable (no pun intended).

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Totally agree, reciting numbers backwards sounds incredibly boring. The brain requires stimulation to gain attention to lay down memory effectively. –  user4784 Nov 28 '13 at 2:47

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