The Science behind Spark’s Brain Gym

Increasing Learning Capacity

Strengthening cognitive skills and building reading fluency

Every educator understands the central role that reading plays in learning. Students who aren’t able to read by third grade face significant academic hurdles and an increased risk of dropping out of school.

That’s why, in developed countries like the US, many states are working to enact legislation requiring retention for students who are not reading at grade level.

The key role that cognitive skills play in learning is less well understood. So we’ve made it our mission not only to apply proven research on how the brain learns, but also to educate educators about how well-developed cognitive skills contribute to successful learning—and how weak cognitive skills detract from learning.

Cognitive Skills: The Missing Piece

Effort to accelerate learning for all students have focused primarily on two points:

  • Curriculum standards
  • Strategies for individualizing instruction to give learners optimal and repeated exposure to content they haven’t mastered

While these objectives are critically important, they do not directly address the needs of many struggling students:

  • Learners who have difficulty paying attention to instruction
  • Learners who have difficulty remembering what they are taught

They also do not address the cognitive challenge faced by nearly every learner from English language learners to learners at grade level and above:

  • The inability to process information in one or more subject areas as quickly as it is being presented.

Even high-performing students can lose motivation when keeping up with the pace of instruction becomes difficult. But when students’ brains are ready to learn at the pace required in the classroom, there’s nothing that can stop them from what they can achieve.

Thus research shows that there are four key cognitive skills that are essential to make a classroom-ready brain namely Memory, Attention, Processing and Sequencing.

How the Fast ForWord Program Helps

Neuroscientific research has revealed that with the right input, the brain can change and reconfigure itself throughout life.That’s why we’ve designed the proven brain fitness exercises in the Fast ForWord program to help students become better learners – able to pay closer attention to their teachers, absorb information faster, and remember what they are taught.

Developing attention, processing rate, memory, and sequencing together as the Fast ForWord program does – in combination with great teaching – can have dramatic results:

  • Accelerated acquisition of knowledge
  • Greater ability to use and organize information from existing curricula
  • Increased learner readiness to actively engage in their own education

Fast ForWord is based on the science of how the brain learns and retains information. It utilizes the principles of neuroscience to exercise and develop the brain’s processing efficiency, essential for academic learning and reading success.

It is a series of computer-delivered brain fitness exercises designed to produce dramatic language and reading improvements in a variety of student populations by improving memory, attention and processing skills. Students work online 30 minutes/day, guided by remote educators. The self-paced software adds speed and complexity in tiny steps, building essential skills in 4-6 months. Fast ForWord® products support existing curriculum—they don’t replace it. When students process more efficiently, every other instructional strategy works better. The results in schools throughout the country are dramatic; students can achieve a one- to two-year gain in reading skills in 8-12 weeks!

Fast ForWord works on four key cognitive skill sets that, when developed together, improve learning and reading. These skill sets are:

  • Memory – The ability to store information and ideas.Memory is essential for word recognition, comprehension of complex sentences, and remembering instructions. Fast ForWord software enhances working memory, short and long-term memory.

  • Attention -The ability to focus on information and tasks, and ignore distractions.Fast ForWord products are designed to improve both attention and focus.

  • Processing Rate -The rate at which a student is able to accurately perceive and manipulate information.In the context of reading, processing rate refers to the rate at which a student can distinguish speech sounds and identify letter and word forms to create meaning. Fast ForWord software increases the rate at which students are able to process incoming information.

  • Sequencing -Placing the detail of information in its accustomed order (for example, days of the week, the alphabet, etc.).


In the context of reading, sequencing is the ability to determine the order of letters within words or words within sentences. Fast ForWord products improve the recognition of the order of sounds, letters, and concepts.Reading is a demanding activity, calling for many specific events to take place simultaneously in the brain.

The Fast ForWord program applies the discoveries of neuroscience to accelerate these important reading skills:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Fluency
  • Decoding
  • Vocabulary
  • Syntax
  • Comprehension

And because the exercises are based in the science of how the brain works, the results are lasting and often life-changing.

Fast ForWord® Technology

The Learning Process Accelerated

Our patented Fast ForWord technology helps accelerate learning by boosting the brain’s ability to process incoming information more effectively and efficiently.

It’s called brain plasticity and among neuroscientists, it refers to the brain’s ability to change at any age throughout life.

Our products use patented technologies that leverage the science of brain plasticity. The Fast ForWord® program triggers changes in the brain and provides an optimal foundation for learning and reading success.

Four key components of our technology-based intervention work together to create the dramatic changes in brain function required to achieve universal literacy:

  • Frequency and Intensity:Neuroscience research demonstrates that completing a set of learning tasks in a frequent, intense timeframe accelerates learning.

  • Adaptivity: Exercises adapt with each key stroke to individual skill levels and responses, keeping students continuously challenged but not frustrated.

  • Simultaneous Development: Exercises develop major cognitive and reading skills simultaneously to produce lasting improvements in learning.

  • Timely Motivation: Tiered rewards are designed to maximize motivation from start to finish.

Our Fast ForWord® LANGUAGE series includes a patented technology that stretches and emphasizes speech sounds at early exercise levels, progressing to natural speech sounds as a student advances to higher levels. This technological ability to “acoustically modify” speech helps students recognize word sounds, first in isolated syllables, then in groups of sounds, then in words, and finally in sentences.

The Fast ForWord program is recognized as a proven scientifically based reading intervention product at leading educational organizations such as:

  • Education Commission for the States
  • Milken Family Foundation
  • The Metiri Group
  • Stanford University,
  • Cornell University,
  • UCSF Medical Center
  • Rutgers University, and many other top Universities

Data independently gathered by schools and educators has shown that with recommended use, Fast ForWord products get results. Our extensive database of student results show our products have a statistically significant positive effect on a wide variety of student populations, including English Language Learners, Special Education students, academically at-risk students, and students performing below their potential.

More than 250 research studies have been conducted on the efficacy of the Fast ForWord program, including scientifically based research and independent Fast ForWord reviews that meet the highest standards of research as defined by the What Works Clearing house within the U.S. Department of Education. Overall, these various evaluations have clearly indicated that combining brain fitness exercises with great teaching and a strong, standards-based curriculum can yield dramatic and enduring improvements in academic achievement. Full research reports show improved test scores using the Fast ForWord program with diverse student populations.

Students using the Fast ForWord® program can raise their reading skill level up to 2 years in as little as 3 months.

Reading Assistant™

Building Fluency with Reading Assistant™

Students with strong cognitive skills may still have work to do in becoming fluent, proficient readers. All beginning readers require plenty of reading practice to build fluency and automaticity in reading, and even advanced readers may struggle when reading unfamiliar texts.

The Reading Assistant program acts as a personal reading coach for every student, “listening” as the student reads and providing immediate corrective feedback when the student stumbles or gets stuck. And because it’s available online, students can use it get in extra reading practice anytime and any where an internet connection is available.

With Reading Assistant, students can improve their reading grade level up to 50% more than students receiving classroom instruction alone.

Given today’s busy classroom, Reading Assistant can be the key to providing all students with the literacy support they need to achieve fluency with a variety of text types-enabling them to effectively read to learn across subjects.

The online Reading Assistant program delivers:

  • Help When Students Need It: Patented technology provides real-time corrective feedback via speech recognition, enabling students to self-correct as they are reading aloud

  • Time Savings for Teachers:Automatic calculation of words correct per minute (WCPM) and immediate access to comprehension and vocabulary reports make tracking students’ progress effortless

  • Increased Student Engagement:Reading selections for a variety of interests and reading levels, plus frequent comprehension checks, keep students motivated and focused on reading for meaning

  • Anytime, Anywhere Access: The Reading Assistant program on the MySciLEARNplatform makes the software easy to implement for school or home use

Proven to get Results

Students using the Reading Assistant program can improve their reading grade level up to 50% more than students receiving classroom instruction alone, in the same time period. Reading Assistant has been implemented in thousands of classrooms across the United States.

Unrivalled Real Time Literacy Support:

Reading Assistant is the only reading program that “listens” to students as they read out loud, intervenes when students falter, and automatically scores students’ oral reading. No other program or e-book provides comparable real-time guidance and feedback.

Engaging Content at various levels:

  • More than 300 levelled reading selections aligned with Common Core State Standards, including science, history, and social studies
  • A range of reading levels to allow for differentiated instruction
  • A variety of genres supporting elementary to high school curriculum, including both literature and informational text at all reading levels

Intervention from a Supportive Listener:

Scientific Learning’s unique Reading Assistant Plug-in brings the capabilities of speech recognition to the browser, for use in the guided reading task. By virtue of speech recognition technology, the software listens to students reading aloud. Monitoring for signs of difficulty, which include hesitations, silence, mispronunciations and other cues, the reading intervention program provides assistance when students stumble or get stuck.