Exercising Your Brain
By Dr. Andrew Yellen
“I’ll never use algebra, so what do I need it for? No one really cares what happened during the War of 1812, so why learn it? Tell me what job I’ll have that I have to recite poetry.”
“Trust me. It’s for enlightenment. They’ll come in handy one day. Besides, it’s simply part of your education, and you have to do it. Go finish your homework.”
This and similar scenarios have been repeated ever since someone invented passing information from one generation to the next. The problem is that it misses the whole point of learning and is not very believable. So why, then, do we have to take all those subjects?
Let’s look at another scenario to apply logic. You’ve decided you’re going to get in shape. You go to a person you believe to be knowledgeable and ask for a workout that will get your whole body into proper form–an efficient, mean, lean, fighting machine. This person tells you that he or she wants you to pick up one 10 lb. weight in your left hand, curl it 30 times, and do this 5 days a week. That’s it! “What about the rest of my body?” you ask. You are told that this will get your whole body into shape. Intuition, even with an inexperienced person, tells you more exercises are required to get to the whole body. Exactly the point!
While the brain is not a muscle, it does input, process, and dispatch different types of information in varying ways. Research with ultra-modern technology has recently demonstrated that the brain actually responds positively when it is stimulated, and that assorted types of information stimulate different parts of the brain. “Getting in shape” requires a “variety” of exercises. Take the following as an example.
If one poured exactly one cup of water into an empty bowl followed by exactly one cup of rubbing alcohol, how many cups of liquid would the bowl then contain? Your answer most likely would be “2″, since one plus one equals two. Your mind has processed the problem as math. However, if “2″ were your answer, you would be wrong. It is not a math problem but rather a chemistry problem. Because water molecules are much larger than alcohol molecules, some of the alcohol molecules slide in between the water molecules, much like ping pong balls in between a bunch of basketballs. You have just exercised your brain in a different manner. The next time someone asks what one cup of liquid plus one cup of liquid is, you will most likely ask what liquids are in question. Thus your ability to evaluate and problem solve has taken on a new dimension. It is not only the content of the subject matter, but the different neurological pathways that are utilized that makes a “full brain workout” so much more effective.
Dr. Yellen is a parent, former educator, and clinical psychologist in private practice. He has appeared nationally as well as giving commentary on local television and radio stations. He is the author of The Art of Perfect Parenting and Other Absurd Ideas and coauthor of Understanding the Learning Disabled Athlete and Social Facilitation in Action. He can be reached at (818) 360-3078 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org