Low-income students aren’t as good at planning, focus and attention as more advantaged classmates, concludes a study in Child Development.
Third graders’ ability to solve a puzzle predicted fifth-grade math and reading achievement, even when IQ was taken into account, reports Education Week.
Cornell researchers asked children to play “Tower of Hanoi,” which requires rebuilding a stack of rings of decreasing size on one of two other poles, moving only one ring at a time and always keeping a smaller ring on top of a larger one. “The puzzle requires students to plan their steps out in advance to avoid backing themselves into a corner, and being able to complete the puzzle quickly and with the minimal number of moves also requires focus and attention skills,” Ed Week.
The greater the level of poverty students experienced in their early childhood, the worse they performed on the puzzle.
Researchers blamed the stress of growing up in poverty.
“Low-income families are bombarded with numerous psychological and physical risk factors: … chaotic living environments, relentless financial pressure, familial disorder and instability, and social isolation,” the authors noted. “These circumstances could lead to an inability to focus on everyday tasks necessary for the development of planning skills.”
Surely, there’s also a correlation between poor planning skills, school failure, poorly timed pregnancy and poverty.
I’m not sure I could solve that puzzle.