Hippocampal-neocortical functional reorganization underlies children's cognitive development


I saw a blog post making claims that a new study from Stanford proved that "Common Core is Bad for the Brain." That sent my crazy detector into the red zone, so I decided to check out the research for myself. As I expected, there's absolutely nothing in the research article about Common Core. There really isn't anything in there about teaching strategies. It takes as a given that children's problem solving strategies become more efficient over time, and it questions which part of the brain might be most involved. By using a fMRI machine to scan children's brains over time, they found that "the transition from use of counting to memory-based retrieval parallels increased hippocampal and decreased prefrontal-parietal engagement during arithmetic problem solving." This is *not* a study about teaching methods or curriculum or standards -- it's a neuroscience study to identify a part of the brain that takes on work as we increase our ability to do things from memory. As for the standards, I don't see anything in the CCSS that contradicts the research. In Grade 1 it supports students' addition and subtraction strategies that aren't yet memory-based through the use of models, objects, drawings, etc. and by Grade 2 it asks for fluency and knowing addition facts from memory. Thanks to some folks at Stanford, now we know that transition involves less prefrontal-parietal engagement and more hippocampal engagement. (And it's at this point where neuroscience frequently hits its limits when it comes to informing us about teaching!)