Tag Archives: Memorization

A case for rote memory

18 Aug

One thing that most educators agree on is that rote memory is bad. One often sees phrases like “unthinking memorization” and ” rote learning without understanding.”  But research continues to show that rote memory is an essential component of learning. Here, for example, is an AP story about recent research on the brain and math learning:

“Sometime in elementary school, you quit counting your fingers and just know the answer. Now scientists have put youngsters into brain scanners to find out why, and watched how the brain reorganizes itself as kids learn math.

The take-home advice: Drilling your kids on simple addition and multiplication may pay off.”

Automaticity, the ability to respond rapidly and accurately at a basic level, is essential for higher level performance. Automaticity is primarily learned through rote memorization and it is a prerequisite for those higher level skills we value. Opposition to memorization undermines higher level thinking.

Rather than eliminating rote memory, we need to find ways to make it more effective and less burdensome.



Dominic O’Brien explains his memory techniques

23 Feb

There are many good popular books on mnemonic techniques, of these, I think Dominic O’Brien’s are the best. Here is a talk where he explains some of these methods.



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My favorite mnemonic

20 Jul

Mnemonics are useful memory tools. My favorite mnemonic is:

“Said George III with a smile, 1760 yards in a mile.”

This mnemonic encodes two pieces of information, the number of yards in a mile (1760) and the year that George III took the throne (also 1760). Knowing how  many yards in a mile helps me to remember how many feet in a mile. Just multiply 1760 by 3 to get 5280.

I admit that no one has ever asked me “just when did George III ascend to the throne?” But when it happens, I am ready.


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