If you play word games like Wordle, you know that solving these puzzles requires specific skills, like knowing how to spell. A little luck is also needed, and that’s the frustrating part. Yesterday, I used five tries to solve Wordle, which was really frustrating because I have the language skills to do better.
Knowledge or Luck?
Students with learning differences sometimes feel similar frustration about their school work, especially when they have subject matter knowledge but don’t get good grades. It’s easy to confuse knowledge with the necessary skills and strategies to perform well.
The Wordle I play analyzes performance compared to other players. Like a teacher, the Wordle analyzer gives an overall grade. Unlike a teacher, the analyzer scores two separate components: skill and luck. It seems that what Wordle calls “luck” actually includes executive function abilities, and people who have them naturally are lucky!
Factors Affecting School Work
When kids do well in school, we assume they’ve improved their knowledge and therefore they get a good grade, as if the knowledge is a skill.
In reality, other factors affect school work. A student with excellent knowledge can perform average or below average if they are having “bad luck” and struggle with executive function, which can happen when they don’t get enough sleep, forget to take their ADHD medicine, think the test is next week, and more.
So, yesterday, although my skills were ranked as A+, my luck had a failing grade. These components averaged out to below average. The “bad luck” included my executive function: I had procrastinated and did the puzzle at night when I was tired, I made impulsive guesses, and I just wasn’t paying attention.
My Wordle analyzer doesn’t care about executive function and just punishes me with bad grades.
The Role of Luck
On the other hand, the day before yesterday, I solved Wordle in two tries and scored well above average! My skills must have been truly exceptional, like a student who gets an A, right? Nope, my skills were a D- but my luck (and executive function) was an A+.
My studious and knowledgeable child — who has dyslexia and ADHD — doesn’t always perform as well in school as she might if her executive function was A+.
While bad luck can happen to anyone, people with naturally good executive function are very lucky. The rest of us have to work hard to learn and practice executive function strategies. Maybe those strategies will also help us cope with the frustration of bad luck.
- Parent of LD High School Student
SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org
Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org