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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Eleven Plus Maze

For years psychologists have used rats and mazes to study problems. One important experiment with rats was to see if maze learning ability could be passed by heredity to successive generations of rats. The plan was that learning could be passed onto successive generations.

Sadly for eleven plus children the maze learning experiment did not work. Imagine if the wisdom, experience and ability of parents to be able to cope successfully with eleven plus papers could be passed successfully onto their children?

There were, however, other experiments with rats, adults and children. The general finding was that rats adults and children did about as well as each other in learning similar mazes.

Many of us when trying one of the famous, and not so famous, mazes will adopt a hit or miss process. Able children and adults reported visualising, planning and reasoning to find their way out.

The first was trying to verbalise the steps to leave the maze – “left one, right two, left three”.

The second was trying to build a visual picture.

The third was motor learning – rather like a hit or miss method.

Of course the most successful was the verbal method.

If you hear your child muttering under his or her breath while trying to solve a complex eleven plus problem – you know that your child is likely to be on the right lines.

If your child closes his or her eyes in the middle of an exercise he or she is either trying to visualize the problem – or is falling asleep.

If your child suddenly, and in desperation, offers up a selection of unrelated answers then you know that a hit or miss method is being used.

Suggest ever so gently to your child that to achieve eleven plus results he or she needs first of all to look ahead and plan the answer. Make the point that hit or miss methods will not always work successfully.

Tell your child that planning and reasoning is a sign of intelligence.

There is, however, a moral in this story. The next time you are driving towards an unfamiliar location and you start to feel lost you need to consult your partner in sweet and normal tones. Do not suddenly start attempting to reach your destination in a hit or miss manner. It would be far better to verbalise your thoughts.

“At the next junction I am going to turn right, and then left after missing two roads. Stop that. Do not argue. I will then turn right and my friend’s house should be on the right. If you don’t stop that you will be invited to walk the rest of the way. You must never ever call your brother a little rat.”

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