Cognitive Skills Can be Improved

Cognitive Skills Can be Improved

by Yvonna Graham, M.Ed;



Two important aspects of cognitive skills training are working memory and processing speed. Working memory, or short term memory, lets you retain and use the information immediately applicable to a task. Processing speed refers to how fast you can think through a problem or series of actions. Both are essential for academic success, and they can be improved. Games prove particularly effective.


To extend working memory, play concentration or other memory games. Mental math and word games help expand the mind’s ability to hold information and use it to problem solve. One especially rich exercise involves looking at an art print with the student, then turning it over. Both teacher and student then try to draw as much of the picture as they can remember.


To increase processing speed, play games with the academic material and praise the student as he/she gets faster on a task such as multiplication facts. It’s important that the child competes only with himself or herself rather than being compared to others. For some children, linking the practice to movement, such as jumping rope or whacking swords, produces much faster improvement.


Logic Links is a series of 4 puzzle books using color and logic. These puzzles are fun for kids to solve. The puzzles progress incrementally from quite easy to seriously complex. There are 100 puzzles in each book. I use these puzzles with students and have noticed a significant improvement in both working memory and processing speed. The improvement carries over to their work in math and reading. One note of caution — be sure to present the puzzles as fun, and offer help as needed. If the puzzles are presented as a test or the child is told to solve it themselves when they become frustrated, the positive element of play is lost, along with the improved cognitive skills that would have developed with longer, happier exposure to the material. This is only one of many such games and puzzles which provide both enjoyment and mental growth.