Does third grade lead to brain changes?
June 6th, 2011
05:02 PM ET

Does third grade lead to brain changes?

How much difference does a year of schooling make in the development of the brain?

New research from Stanford University, published in the journal NeuroImage, suggests that problem-solving ability improves from second to third grade in ways that are associated with changes in the brain. The researchers believe these brain changes are the result of skills that the children are acquiring in school, although the study did not show cause and effect.

"It address both questions of how the brain improves and how children acquire new knowledge," said Vinod Menon, neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Researchers looked at 90 children, half of whom had recently completed second grade and the other half whom had just finished third grade, aged 7 to 9. They did not all go to the same school. Participants had normal intelligence and scored between the 25th and 98th percentile in math reasoning. Third graders tended to have better math reasoning skills, and were about one year older than the second graders.

They found that third graders' brains responded differently than second graders' when doing certain mental calculations.

Researchers gave the children both simple and complex addition problems. In the easy calculations, one of the numbers being added is 1. For the more difficult problems, they had to add a number between 2 and 9 to a number between 2 and 5.

In general, the third graders were more accurate at the math problems than the second graders, but still not 100%.

While the second graders' brains treated these kinds of tasks similarly, third graders showed distinct brain responses for simple and difficult problems. The older children showed greater engagement in a brain system related to quantity representation, and in another related to working memory.

The third graders' brains also showed greater "cross-talk," or signal transfer, along pathways that deal with information between those two regions, and help with more efficient numerical problem solving.

"Hopefully at some point we'll be able to translate and use this information to examine children with dyscalculia and related learning disabilities," Menon said.

There's not enough evidence for specifics yet, but the idea is that brain imaging could inform educational interventions for these children. Understanding the parts of the brain involved in children's math skill development could lead to tutoring or other cognitive paradigms for children with learning disabilities, Menon said.

The next step is to follow individual children through years of schooling to see how their brain responses change. The researchers will also look at children with autism and other developmental disabilities to examine their brain responses in problem solving.

soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. Fiona

    The Stanford neuroscientist misused the word "hopefully." Egads.

    June 6, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • no

      no he didn't

      June 6, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
    • russell

      I wonder if attending an online school like Connections Academy will alter the changes. I firmly believe a home environment supplemented by today's technology in education can help enhance our nation's math scores overall.

      June 6, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse |
    • trace

      Yes, he did. Nice try, "no." Just because nearly everyone uses it that way doesn't mean it's right.

      June 6, 2011 at 19:24 | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous001

      hope·ful·ly /ˈ hōpfəlē / Adverb

      1. In a hopeful manner: "he rode on hopefully".

      2. It is to be hoped that: "hopefully, it should be finished by next year".

      June 6, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
    • Christina W

      "Correct," Trace, not "right." You can get off your high horse now.

      Can we please go back to focusing our comments on the actual subject of this article, and not the errors in grammar?

      June 6, 2011 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      Anyone care to actually back up your claim that he misused it by explaining your logic? I don't see anything wrong with the way he used the word, so please enlighten me.

      June 6, 2011 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
    • GrammarCop84

      : in a hopeful manner
      : it is hoped : I hope : we hope

      Usage Discussion of HOPEFULLY
      In the 1960s the second sense of hopefully, which dates to the early 18th century and had been in fairly widespread use since at least the 1930s, underwent a surge in popularity. A surge of criticism followed in reaction, but the criticism took no account of the grammar of adverbs. Hopefully in its second sense is a member of a class of adverbs known as disjuncts. Disjuncts serve as a means by which the author or speaker can comment directly to the reader or hearer usually on the content of the sentence to which they are attached. Many other adverbs (as interestingly, frankly, clearly, luckily, unfortunately) are similarly used; most are so ordinary as to excite no comment or interest whatsoever. The second sense of hopefully is entirely standard.


      You were saying? Learn English; thanks.

      June 6, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • TheRationale

      No he didn't. I'd check my grammar if I were you....

      If anything, the journalist forgot a comma.

      June 6, 2011 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
    • dgatwood

      This usage of the word is known as a "sentence adverb". It's not clear why some people object to using this word, when they do not object to any of the other words that are regularly used in basically the same way—critically, ideally, ironically, apparently, certainly, oddly, admittedly, etc.—but some people do.

      The objections they raise basically stem from the mistaken belief that this usage means that the actions of the sentence must be performed in a hopeful way. Yet, if I said, "Ideally, this problem should be addressed," I am not saying that the problem must be addressed in a ideal way, but rather that it is ideal for the problem to be addressed. In exactly the same way, by saying, "Hopefully, the sun will shine tomorrow," I am saying that it is hoped that the sun will shine tomorrow.

      What's particularly funny about this is how utterly late to the party these folks are. The word hopefully as a sentence adverb has been in at least occasional use since the early 1700s, and as grammarphobia.com mentions, sentence Adverbs in English can be traced back hundreds of years before that. The first English translation of the Bible, the Wycliffe translation, used the word "plainly" as a sentence adverb in 1382. In short, the anti-hopefully movement are a well-intentioned bunch of folks who mistakenly believe that they are preserving the purity of the English language, when in reality, they are railing against a *very* common construction in the English language that has been in common use since before the dawn of modern English!

      Hopefully, the effects of this rather foolish movement on the English language will be minimal. Amusingly, and sadly, that doesn't keep these people from continuing to troll on Internet message boards and making absurd claims that this usage of hopefully is somehow incorrect. It is not.

      June 6, 2011 at 22:40 | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      The study is just one more in a line designed to excuse a poor home environment and not insult the lower class. Without parents who teach, very few students ever succeed academically. Bad home environments, stupid, lazy parents = bad students and failures.

      June 6, 2011 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
    • sallyflower

      Did not.

      June 6, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
    • Juan

      Even if he did.... he is a neuroscientist... not an english major, as in he left college with a BS not a BA....i think he deserves some slack, i don't understand the spelling police on this site... do you think your better than everyone else because you majored in journalism and that your smarter than a PHD neuroscientist because he sucks at spelling?... get over yourself. while your annaylizing everyone's articles he is solving problems you could never comprehend.

      June 6, 2011 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      If someone finds a cure to cancer, I really won't care if he says "this is the method I cured cancer with."

      June 6, 2011 at 23:53 | Report abuse |
    • Yoda

      Pwnt, Fiona was....

      June 7, 2011 at 00:44 | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      Wow, thats all you get from this dumbed down article? He used "Hopefully" wrong? Try reading and understanding the actual scientific article for this particular study and then talk.

      June 7, 2011 at 02:50 | Report abuse |
    • RR1White

      Great comment! You were wrong, but I, for one, learned about disjuncts just now! And learning is never a bad thing.

      June 7, 2011 at 05:12 | Report abuse |
    • QED5

      "Hopefully" is among many words that are considered sentence adverbs, which, for clarity's sake, serve to modify entire sentences. The danger of using sentence adverbs is that confusion may arise over what is being modified. But it's rare that this sort of confusion arises in modern usage since their use is widespread. This syntax is well accepted in British, Canadian, and American English. Moreover, many who object to its modern use are grammar sticklers who would rather take issue with minutia than address the core topic. They, for reasons unknown to me, gain their greatest gratification by introducing obvious red herrings to socially salient topics. I would argue that correcting grammar on a message board is the last bastion of a weak argument; and an activity used almost exclusively by trolls.

      In an age when academic standards are not being met in our schools, it seems infinitely more practical to focus on content rather than details that contribute little or nothing to a meaningful discussion.

      June 7, 2011 at 05:44 | Report abuse |
    • QED5

      @Richard – Have you read the entire article? The reason I ask is that this CNN synopsis of the original research doesn't discuss the ramification of this period of brain development on parenting strategies; neither does it discuss whether or not this transition is a function of nurture, nature, or both, which I believe is at the crux of your statement. Most scientific research is not a home run, so to speak. These scientists make very specific hypotheses, observations, and detail their findings in a very narrow field of interest. Sometimes they may give conclusion that suggest the implication of the research and suggest future studies. But they don't try to answer all questions with one scientific study. I recommend reading actual scientific studies to get a sense of the accept format, rather than relying on popular media outlets to paint an inaccurate picture of how scientific research advances.

      June 7, 2011 at 05:59 | Report abuse |
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @Fiona, that's much ado about nothing. Language is elastic, which means it changes over time whether we like the changes or not. Even though you were told in the past that it's incorrect to use "hopefully" as a sentence adverb, it's become so commonplace that it's changed the accepted rules on grammar in the same way that we've just about accepted the incorrect use of the word "who" in place of "whom" in common, everyday speech. During the interview, the Stanford neuroscientist clearly meant "I hope" in his verbal sentence but instead used "hopefully", and it's not the end of the world...life goes on.

      June 7, 2011 at 06:25 | Report abuse |
    • Fletch

      OK, which one of you grammar snobs have NEVER misused a word? Get a life.

      June 7, 2011 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
    • zzz

      That's why the neuroscientist has $20k/yr English BA majors copy-edit his work.

      June 7, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
    • micro

      Thanks dgatwood. I learned more from your reply than from the article.

      June 7, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • Kristin


      June 7, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      It's funny how people who obsess at how "hopefully" is used in the article never seem to give a clear explanation as to why it's wrong and also have no objection to using adverbs like "admittedly" in the very same way.

      June 7, 2011 at 18:50 | Report abuse |
  2. FairGarden

    Many TV cartoons cause brain damages to the third graders and other kids for sure.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Whatdidyoujustsay?

      No seriously, what did you just say? That made no sense at all.

      June 6, 2011 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Klien

      Really? Seriously? How about those cartoons where Bluto beat the heck out of Popeye and visaversa? What about poor old Coyote getting messed up by Road Runner or Elmer blasting away Daffy? Violence has been in cartoons since the beginning.

      June 6, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
  3. FairGarden

    Americans, send your kids to Sunday school to be normal again.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Just what would Sunday school do for them? I yanked my kid out of that class the day he told me God would be mad at him for doing something. I told him God loved him no matter what, that it was important for him to be a good boy, yes, but he didn't have to be afraid of God.

      June 6, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
    • Whatdidyoujustsay?

      My kids can watch cartoons at home – why do I need someone else to tell them stories?

      June 6, 2011 at 18:53 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Normal? You mean, like you? No, thanks.

      June 6, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse |
    • paganguy

      Sunday school will make them into stupid puppets of the church. Obviously you have attended.

      June 6, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      I'd rather raise both creative and logical thinkers, rather than those who indulge in someone else's fantasy pretending it is reality. Normal is overrated, normal kids don't do terribly much with their lives. If they did, we'd have many more kids going into engineering and science than we currently do.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:06 | Report abuse |
    • unowhoitsme

      That wil just screw them up for life! No thanks...

      June 6, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse |
    • mjg

      The bible states that children should be taught by their fathers in the home. The Church in the bible only refers to a group of people not a place, organization, or system which is exactly what the majority of Christians are deceived into believing to be true. Even those that attend a church and can tell you that the Church is the people of God are still buying into the system- Hello! Seek him and you shall see him or continue to allow some man to tell you who what and how!

      June 6, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
    • Ac

      My child reads enough fiction at home, thanks.

      June 6, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
    • mjg

      Ac -what non fiction does your child read and what facts are they based on?

      June 6, 2011 at 21:45 | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous001

      While you may think your advice is sound, I was molested during Sunday school while being taught to trust older men "of god".

      June 6, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse |
    • Guin

      I think Sunday school contributed to my many issues. I will never subject my children to it.

      June 7, 2011 at 01:39 | Report abuse |
    • Carole

      I do take my daughter to Sunday school – I take her to the forest preserves, where she can study the wonderful variety of flora and fauna there. Or, when the weather is bad, I take her to the aquarium, or the museum, or to Chinatown, so she can experience another culture. Personally, I can't wait to see how her already incandescent mind responds to the third grade.

      June 7, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
    • zzz

      Why? So he can be indoctrinated to believe in an old man that lives in the sky? No thanks!

      June 7, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • Erogant2

      Going to a single-subject school one day a week is better than attending a multi-subject school five days a week?

      June 7, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • Poppy

      I remember going to sunday school. It was cool and i did very well in it. When I got to highschool my parents would send me on these youth group retreats. i remember there was a guy there that called me roman for some reason. he said my nose looked like a roman nose. He also liked to be naked in front of everyone. He was kind of weird but i liked that he called me roman. it made me feel cool

      June 8, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    Oh, believe me...both of my children have been educated on the poisons of religion.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Katie

    How can they possibly make such a generalized statement based on a grade level? The kids can be any age from six to eight in third grade, they can have all sorts of backgrounds, and they could have had a very good or a very bad 2nd grade teacher. (We had experience with a 2nd grade teacher who routinely did not prepare her students for 3rd grade.) It's time for these researchers to stop using students as guinea pigs for their research. You know their findings are going to change next year anyway.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • technokat

      You've actually seen a 6 year-old in 3rd grade? THAT is a disgrace. Children should not be grouped just by intellectual ability–there are developmental issues to consider. I don't care what kind of prodigy you think you have, a child's social environment is key to his or her emotional development. Please don't force younger children into higher grades just because they "perform" well academically.

      June 6, 2011 at 19:09 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Yeah, screw science learning about childhood brain development! We should stop all scientific research period just because science is a process which needs updating and hence can change from year to year.

      Seriously if we prevent scientists from studying childhood brain development, how exactly do you expect us to learn how children's brains develop? Divine inspiration?

      June 6, 2011 at 20:10 | Report abuse |
    • Amber

      I agree...I've only read this story and not the original study, so I'd be curious to see if they give more information there. Did they consider age differences and that it's possibly just development in the brain based on age-related maturation? Or is it something about the actual problem-solving skills they are being taught? Is it just because by 3rd grade they've had more exposure to that kind of math, so they are moving the processing to a different part of the brain (akin to long-term vs. short-term memory types of changes)? Like you mentioned, each school and teacher is very different in approach, so if it is an effect attributed to actual skills learned in 3rd grade, then is there going to be some type of useful feedback in terms of what approaches to use? I think it sounds like it's likely just normal development and growth changes in the brain that happen around that age level though. I taught in a school where all the children have an extra year of kindergarten before starting into elementary (due to it being a dual language education), so all the kiddos were a year older in each grade – I'm curious what kinds of results they would see there. Plus, what happens between 3rd and 4th grade? Similar changes in processing? So many questions unanswered! I wouldn't exactly call this ground-breaking at this point =P

      June 6, 2011 at 20:54 | Report abuse |
    • scott

      didn't piaget peg this a long time ago.. abstract reasoning begins around 8 years old.. not even a mention of it

      June 6, 2011 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
    • mjg

      How about IEP for all students? do away with grade levels!

      June 6, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
    • Howzatnow

      it wasn't a generalized statement based on grade level it was based on scanning their lil brains and noting the changes that seem to take place between the two points in time, before and after grade three.

      June 7, 2011 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      andrew- research, as opposed to random opinions, actually shows the benefits of whole grade acceleration outweigh the negatives. We have it backwards- grade retention is harmful, grade acceleration is beneficial, yet our policies favor retention and discourage acceleration.

      June 7, 2011 at 00:51 | Report abuse |
    • MathNotMe

      What I don't see addressed is that even poorly taught 3rd graders are still exposed to more math than 2nd graders. Doesn't the brain create new path ways as we learn, so wouldn't the 3rd graders have these pathways in place from having been exposed to more math? Isn't that the whole theory behind physical therapy in stroke victims, getting the brain to create new path ways for old information? This study doesn't seem to have much point to it.

      June 7, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
  6. reality

    Apparently children who get plenty of religious indoctrination grow up to be trashy internet trolls.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BobZemko

    Of course, having nuns beat it into you helps, too.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anonymous001

      I guess that is less preferable to having older men "of god" beat it "out" of me.

      June 6, 2011 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • Poppy

      having them beat it into you probably isnt a very good option either

      June 8, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
  8. BobZemko

    Yeah, but kids who receive no religious education are less likely to be abused by priests.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sparky

    "The third graders' brains also showed greater "cross-talk," or signal transfer, along pathways that deal with information between those two regions, and help with more efficient numerical problem solving."

    Please don't dissect the children.

    June 6, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wendy

      If you bring a note from home you can sit in the library while the dissections take place.

      June 6, 2011 at 21:54 | Report abuse |
  10. Dave

    Headline- Year of School Makes Children Smarter; Scientists Dumbfounded!

    June 6, 2011 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeremy

      Here's a tip: despite your overinflated opinion of yourself, you are most likely *not* smarter than the people studying this.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse |
    • mjg

      Great comment!!

      June 6, 2011 at 21:31 | Report abuse |
    • mjg

      clarify – great comment, dave!

      June 6, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @Dave, HEADLINE, You're wrong. The point of the article and the research isn't to prove the obvious notion that a year of learning sees an improvement in skill, but rather that there's a significant leap in a child's capacity to learn and reason during that year. The more we understand exactly how a human child's brain learns, the better equipped we are to fashion the education system that's clearly broken in order to prepare children later down the line. Research into child neuro-development and education does not cease simply because you don't understand how it works.

      June 7, 2011 at 06:38 | Report abuse |
  11. Whatdidyoujustsay?

    What kind of moran (lol) are you?

    June 6, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. D Hayden

    I can't locate this article. Post a link anyone? Ms Landau?

    June 6, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. damn yank

    you mean there is a difference between second and third graders? wow...

    maybe next year they'll realize that there is a difference in fourth and fifth graders......

    just amazing!

    June 6, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @damn yank, not only is there a difference between 2nd and 3rd graders, the article and the researchers clearly state that further research is needed to clarify why there's a significant difference in this particular year of education.

      This particular year, 2nd to 3rd grade, likely represents a milestone in child neuro-development, a critical point in time when a child shows a leap forward in his or her capacity to learn and retain what they've learned. The more we know and understand about how we learn as children, the better we can shape our education system, to better prepare children for what needs to happen further down the line, into high school and college. Research doesn't end simply because you don't understand it!

      June 7, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse |
  14. Peter

    When I was in the 3rd grade I was bored silly. I was worrying about the square root of the derivitive of X3 and my teacher was talking about long division. It's a good thing I sat next to Lulu because she was the only good thing I can remember about 3rd grade.

    June 6, 2011 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      ... Why would a third grader worry about the square root of a derivative? Those seem two very odd concepts to worry about together. If you had any proper understanding of derivatives, square roots should have been perfectly intuitive concepts, and square roots of derivatives equally so.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:12 | Report abuse |
    • Poppy

      Was Lulu hot?

      June 8, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  15. RichardSRussell

    Let me guess. You DID get a religious education, right?

    June 6, 2011 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RichardSRussell

    Not to be unduly rude, but is the little girl in the picture giving someone the finger?

    June 6, 2011 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • osg

      I saw a middle finger.. case close.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
  17. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Nonsense. I got a great deal of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and plenty of parental education on religion. Look how I turned out. I'm a successful, happy adult who doubts there is a god of any sort. I live a moral life. I contribute to charity. I work in a realm of public service. Lots of other people who got no religious education whatsoever are perfectly happy, successful, contributing members of society, too.

    June 6, 2011 at 19:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Poppy

      You are absolutely right Tom. You have the coolest life ever! i spend most of my days and a lot of my nights dreaming about you and wishing i could be you. Im very jelous because I dont lead a moral life...i dont have any self control at all. Im a great big fat person that self abuses a lot. I wish I was dead...or you

      June 8, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
  18. Religion is Lies

    All religious beliefs are based on faith, where faith by definition is “belief that is not based on proof”. This is a fallacy, let me help you understand, they are LYING to you. There is no way to prove religious claims because it is all fantastic fairytale fantasies and lies. BTY, tons of what religion claims has been DISPROVEN. If you enjoy being lied to (and giving your money and young boys to the priest hood), that’s your prerogative, but get off your high horse and don’t expect everyone else to enjoy being treated as a foolish, delusional, in denial “faithful” follower of your 2,000 year old plus B.S.

    June 6, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. paganguy

    Children growing up in a religious setting learn to lie and to decieve. Easter, Cheistmas and everything else is full of that crap.
    The whole Bible is a big lie.

    June 6, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Anonymous001

    I was molested during Sunday school while being taught to trust older men "of god".

    June 6, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MM

    Seriously? Of course this is how it is. Third graders are smarter than second graders and have more schooling. It's common sense that their brain would respond differently to problems.

    June 6, 2011 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeremy

      This has nothing to do with 3rd graders being "smarter" and everything to do with trying to see how the brain develops.

      As it turns out, "common sense" is a really terrible way to figure things out and doesn't help understanding much.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse |
  22. smuggle toes

    And Indian people are damn smart....

    June 6, 2011 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. clark1b

    a kid that is 14% older and had more experience and more practice ... imagine that .... a study showed they are better at problem solving. How much money did it take to show something that was so obvious to us all to begin with?

    June 6, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • just some dude

      It seems like they are trying to prove that schooling is making the kids' brains develop. I would like to hear what they thought nine year olds' brains were like for the millenia prior to Elementary School. Obviously, correlation does not imply causality and the study is conceived by educated crackpots.

      June 6, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
  24. M&M

    Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

    June 6, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. smartypants

    The part of the article that strikes me is that children at the end of grade 3 in America have not mastered adding together two numbers below the 10. That is an indication of either the poor quality of education or the lack of expectation of the American education system. Scary for your future.

    June 6, 2011 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • smartypants

      and here come the comments regarding my lack of english skills! Meant to read below the number 10.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
    • onoes_notme

      Wow, I saw the same thing. If the 'difficult' problem was to add a number 1-9 to a number 2-5, then we are doomed as a society for sure. My kids aren't genius but come on, they are learning multiplication tables (1-12) in their school by third. Frankly, we're having more behavioral issues than anything so the teachers recommended we hold them back. One is 5 in 1st, and the oldest is 8 in 3rd. Perhaps I should consider putting them in public schools. They would be geniuses then I suppose and I wouldn't have to hold them back. Sad, truly sad.

      June 6, 2011 at 20:51 | Report abuse |
    • jjj4567

      I suspect they were looking for a skill that they expected could be done by all students in the study at the end of the second grade. That they chose this does not show anything about 3rd grade curriculum.

      June 6, 2011 at 21:29 | Report abuse |
  26. no thanks

    looking at the different statements from FairGarden, I think he is just throwing stupid ideas out there just to get on people's nerves. I don't think he is that stupid to believe in those statements ... well, maybe he is that stupid, and I am that naive ...

    June 6, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I think FairGarden is Adelina or HeavenSent, and yes, they both are REALLY that stupid.

      But then again, when I read the comments people have made here, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Some of you are truly clueless as to what the study showed.

      Dumbazzes. I wish scientists would figure out what is wrong with YOUR brains that you are incapable of reading and comprehending the even most dumbed-down prose.

      June 7, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
  27. cpc65

    My brain was always looking for a way out of the "education factory". My teachers (most of them anyway) just didn't get it. They were just trying to pound all of us into square holes with a big wooden mallet. That's how they saw education.

    June 6, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Poppy

      they should just add round holes for the round pegs, but wouldnt a round peg fit into a square hole? if you had a choice would you pick the round hole or the square hole? i remember I had this little pounding bench with round pegs and you put pegs in until they started coming out the side of the bench. I always imagined that it was pooping. Also my brothers and I used to pretend we were in a boat inside wonderwomans butt. We had to mine our way out to stay alive.

      June 8, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
  28. unowhoitsme

    "Research" always bugs me. Kids will rise to level and challenges that are expected of them. Parents, start stilimulating your child's brain at a very early age, and you'll get amazing results. They are little sponges that absorb everything that's put in front of them. Stop watching TV and spend time with your kids. America would go back to being number one in education. What a concept!

    June 6, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. ErikH

    My daughter is in public school in Sarasota, FL. She just finished 1st grade. She can easily add numbers under ten together with 100% accuracy. At the end of first grade, her teacher had the whole class adding and subtracting two digit numbers. I don't know where these researchers found the kids for their study? But, they don't represent the average kids in my community. I even taught my daughter simple multiplication and division (1-5). While I think my daughter is smart. It seems the kids in the Stanford study were not bright at all.

    June 6, 2011 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Do you have any idea who the kids in the study were or what their backgrounds were? Do you really think anyone cares what your little Preshus can or can't do? Your anecdotes do not equal statistics and your one school or community does not amount to anything when compared to a study.


      June 6, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse |
  30. RP

    I guess Sara Palin skipped third grade then

    June 6, 2011 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MamaGrizzly


      June 6, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
  31. TERRY

    Why the "grade" designation? Maybe it was just an age effect? I don't think any brain changes occur because of "grade in school" or compulsory education, but maybe developmental changes occur around that time, if given proper stimulation, regardless of formal education. I assume similar - if not identical - changes occur in kids with intellectual stimulation around that age whether they be in formal educational system, being home-schooled, or in the wilderness in other cultures.

    June 6, 2011 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. scott

    oops... i mean logical thinking.. abstract is the next one around 11.. that study will be next

    June 6, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Ac

    Funny thing, I thought getting older you were more inclined TO BE smarter.

    June 6, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. bill lucoff

    after 50 years I can now blame my 3rd grade teacher

    June 6, 2011 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. bob

    Rudolph Steiner had this figured out 80 years ago.. check out Waldorf education for what and how our children could be learning.. my kids went to waldorf schools and are the most creative young people out there, along with their other waldorf friends.. it works and it sure doesn't push academics before age 7 or 8.. let the young be young and then they will bloom!

    June 6, 2011 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Wendy

    Did the study include homeschooled or unschooled children? It seems that examining such a subset of students would help determine if the findings are caused by the classroom environment or if they occur regardless of traditional pedagogy.

    June 6, 2011 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Will

    Oh yes, it must be the arbitrary American construction of "third grade". It couldn't possibly be a normal physiologic process that takes place at that age. Egads this article is stupid...

    June 6, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. kate

    According to the article, 2+2 would be a "more difficult" addition problem for a 9 yr old who just finished 3rd grade? Pathetic that a 9 yr old of "normal intelligence" could be expected to find that addition problem difficult at all.

    June 6, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. zorua dude

    hmm, not to be critical of the study or anything but aren't the students in third grade generally older then the students in second grade? It even mentions in the fourth paragraph about *older children* showing greater intellectual capacity, but older kids obviously are going to show more proficiency in things like math because their brains are more developed than their younger predecessors. meh, maybe there's more to this study than what this article is elaborating on. I dunno.

    By the way, I'm generally against homeschooling as some people keep trying to bring up around here. The child can be taught simultaneously by parents when they are out of school; either on break or after the school day or other free time. Kids need outside stimuli as well as other kids to play with for further development.

    June 6, 2011 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Moses

    I have always said that there's something wrong with the third grade. Almost everyone I've met in my lifetime that was held back one grade, had to repeat third grade. People always wondered how I knew, but after all these years, its just a gimme.

    June 6, 2011 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. James

    I'd swear that little girl in the photo is flipping someone the bird, and getting ready to give'm both barrels...
    I, too, seem to recall the challenges of the 3rd grade, and how hard it was to train my brain to extend just the middle finger. Some kids did it much better than me, but what I lacked in technique, I more than made up for in frequency..wait.. I sense a metaphor.

    June 6, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. sallyflower

    Yet second-graders are now being 'forced' to work at the third-grade level in math. How do I know this? I'm a second-grade teacher in CA.

    June 6, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. DP

    It's long division that changes the brain. It's the dark night of the soul for math.

    June 6, 2011 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. TheOracle8191

    So basically they're saying that children who are in a higher grade and are of a higher age group, perform mental tasks better than children of lesser grade and age. THIS is what scientists are spending money on finding out?? Next thing they'll tell us is that your lungs will work better if they're filled with oxygen periodically.

    June 7, 2011 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @TheOracle8191. No, that's not the point of the study and the article at all. Logically, a child that's a year older in the next grade up is going to learn at a different pace than the previous year. What the research is touching on is that this particular year (the 3rd grade) represents a great leap forward in a human being's capacity to think and reason, and that the importance of education getting it right during the 3rd grade is worthy of more research to improve the education system.

      June 7, 2011 at 05:46 | Report abuse |
  45. Amanda

    I think the point is that two distinct regions of the brain are triggered, one for the 2nd graders tested and a DIFFERENT one for 3rd graders. The importance is that, at some point during that time period, the way the brain reacts to problem-solving is altered. That actually is major, because it can help educators learn more effective teaching methods based on the way the brain responds.

    June 7, 2011 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. McGuffin

    "The researchers believe these brain changes are the result of skills that the children are acquiring in school, although the study did not show cause and effect."

    That says it all right there. Scientifically speaking, all they've proven is that children's brains change between second and third grade. In other news, bears s**t in the woods.

    June 7, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Eric

    Silly point but the picture is clearly of a first grader. My second grader has already started division.

    June 7, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. ougs

    This puts a whole new perspective on "Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing".

    June 7, 2011 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. 2 to 4

    I wonder what that implies for kids like me, who 'were skipped', as they used to call it, from grade 2 to 4 in NYC public schools at the height of the Baby Boom. I know I never caught up with the accelerated math that I was pushed to learn. Barely passed my 2 math Regents exams in HS, and am still math-shy.

    June 7, 2011 at 03:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Andrea Perez

    Here's what the article is saying:
    There is a significant increase in mathematical reasoning between the ages of 7 and 9.
    Which means...a lot of the "new"math we are forcing down our kids throats at earlier ages is not being processed correctly. As a teacher for over 20 years, what this tells me is that some of the kids we label as "Learning disabled" aren't disabled at all, they just haven't made a developmental milestone yet. And for all of these comments I've been reading, you've really missed the point. It's not that they've proved that older kids are "smarter", what they are trying to prove is that there are markers in which our brain develops certain pathways that enable us to learn better. Goes back to what Piaget was saying but now there is some proof. Which means that kids will learn and retain information better if we take note of this and stop forcing them to do things that they are just not ready for. They can memorize facts but do they understand what they are doing? Can they apply it to later years? Are they even capable of understanding some of the stuff we are trying to get them to learn? And maybe answering these questions will help declassify some of our ESE kids....

    June 7, 2011 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @Andrea Perez, I entirely agree with what you're saying. People seem to want to come on to these blogs to find fault with the article, the research, and to make themselves "sound" smarter than everyone else. The article clearly points out that more study is needed to gain a clearer understanding of what happens to the brain as it learns and develops during childhood, and how our education system plays a vital role in that development. The people that comment here seem to want to do away with pure research simply because they don't understand the research itself.

      June 7, 2011 at 05:56 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      THANK YOU. At last, someone writes an intelligent post.

      June 7, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • lindabone

      Andrea....your response is thoughtful and true. I remember when making lessons "developmentally appropriate" was our compass for early education and now perhaps we can get back to that. Dr. B.

      June 7, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
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