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Children need to understand the rules of arithmetic, but the rules won't mean much unless they have first memorized the facts, suggests Mark Ashcroft, a psychology professor at Cleveland State University who is conducting a study on how children and adults compute mathematics problems in their heads.

Mr. Ashcroft uses a computer in the study, which is supported by a $47,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The computer presents the person with a simple arithmetic problem, then records how long it takes the subject to compute the problem.

"All adults use nearly the same mental processes and take about the same amount of time," Mr. Ashcroft said. "Children take longer and vary more in the methods they use because they still count for arithmetic." Adults, on the other hand, have memorized simple equations that are quickly "retrieved." Rules--for example, zero times anything equals zero--are retrieved less quickly.

"If we understand how people do math in their heads, maybe we can teach it better," Mr. Ashcroft said.


A progress report of an ongoing study on the effects of television viewing supplies more evidence that there is a relationship between heavy exposure to television in early childhood and poor performance in reading.

Jerome L. and Dorothy G. Singer, affiliates in the Family Television Research and Consultation Center at Yale University, are continuing work on a project originally sponsored by the National Science Foundation in 1976 to examine the long-term effects of television on imagination, aggression, and other behavior.

The current phase of the study, sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, focuses on reading ability.

It is clear, the Singers say in the progress report, that children currently watching a great deal of television are doing worse in "reading recognition and comprehension."

They also report a strong correlation between heavy viewing and a tendency to regard the world as a "scary" place. This tendency is found particularly among children who frequently watch violent action shows.

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