The memory demands for school-age children are much greater than they are for adults. As adults, we have already acquired much of the knowledge and skills we need to function day to day. Although the knowledge base for some fields such as technology changes rapidly, the new information is generally highly specific and builds on existing knowledge. On the other hand, school children are constantly bombarded with new knowledge in multiple topic areas in which they may or may not be interested. Additionally, they are expected to both learn and demonstrate the mastery of this knowledge on a weekly basis. Thus, an effective and efficient memory is critical for school success.
Many students have memory problems. Students who have deficits in registering information in short-term memory often have difficulty remembering instructions or directions they have just been given, what was just said during conversations and class lectures and discussions, and what they just read. Students who have difficulty with working memory often forget what they are doing while doing it.
For example, they may understand the three-step direction they were just given, but forget the second and third steps while carrying out the first step. If they are trying to solve a math problem that has several steps, they might forget the steps while trying to solve the problem. When they are reading a paragraph, they may forget what was at the beginning of the paragraph by the time they get to the end of the paragraph. These students will look like they have difficulty with reading comprehension. In facts, they do; but the comprehension problem is due to a failure of the memory system rather than the language system.
Students who have deficits in the storage and retrieval of information from long-term memory may study for tests, but not be able to recall the information they studied when taking the tests. They frequently have difficulty recalling specific factual information such as dates or rules of grammar. They have a poor memory of material they earlier in the school year or last year. They may also be unable to answer specific questions asked of them in class even when their parents and/or teachers think they really know the information.