Memory load

It is generally accepted that a human brain can hold between five and nine pieces of information in working memory.

The load placed on working memory is dependent on:

  • the choice of strategy
  • the familiarity of the knowledge needed for the chosen strategy.

Being aware of short-term memory demands is an important feature of teaching for mental strategies. Here are some useful tips.

  • Knowledge is important.
    It influences the strategies a student sees as possible and provides the tools to use those strategies.
    Teachers should equally emphasise knowing and working with knowledge to create new connections.
  • Written recording and mental calculation are compatible.
    Jotting ideas while working through a problem clarifies thoughts.
    Recording information eases memory load.
  • Critically evaluate choice of strategy.
    Fluency, a proficiency in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, requires making efficient choices of strategy.

You can read more in the article Is Your Classroom Mental? on the AAMT website.