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Memorize To Learn

There is a lot of strong opposition to memorization when it comes to learning and, especially with math. In fact, opposition to memorization has revolutionized how math is taught in school. For many years now, there has been a trend moving toward understanding rather than memorizing. As a college student, you need to make your own choices about how you learn. It is your responsibility to take charge of your learning. On this page, we will give you our thoughts on how memorizing can enhance your mind and your learning.

Why Memorizing is Not Popular

1. Memorizing is hard work.
This may be a primary reason why the trend is moving away from memorization in math education. We all want our lives to be easy. But easy lives do not usually accomplish much. Learning takes effort and is not comfortable. But discomfort, frustration and struggle is where we learn and grow. This is true in almost every area of life.

2. Memorizing requires use of specific techniques.
These techniques are not usually taught in schools and most people do not know them. So many of us just try rote memorization by repeating something over and over, which is not an efficient technique and usually doesn't work. After learning that it doesn't work, we give up and say that we have a poor memory. However, if we learn new techniques, we can memorize things.

3. Memorizing is not learning.
Let's say this up front. We are talking about memorizing, not learning. However, our opinion is that memorization enhances learning. And that is what we want to talk to you about next.

Why We Should Still Memorize

While it is true that memorizing is not learning, memorizing is an important component of learning. Just like sitting in a classroom is not learning, but you still need to actually sit in a classroom to be in a position to learn. This is just like memorizing. We need the material in our heads to be able to learn it and use it. Memorizing gets it into our brains and trains our brain for future learning.

1. We need to be able to quickly retrieve facts and truths in order to understand them.
Just knowing a fact does not mean we have learned something. However, the important bridge between not knowing something and learning it involves memorizing. For example, we can memorize that the commutative property in multiplication means that we can multiply two numbers in either order and get the same answer. However, until we actually notice that \(2 \times 3 = 3 \times 2\), can we say that we understand the commutative property. But without first memorizing the commutative property, we would not know what to call this operation or why it is important.
Another example, if we did not know how the letters of the alphabet are written, we would not know how to read. The alphabet and the letters must be memorized in order to be able to read.

2. Memorizing changes the structure of your brain.
We believe that this is the most important reason to memorize things on a regular basis, even when not in school. What you focus on, memorize, think about and study changes the way your brain works, making it easier to remember, focus, process and learn. Yes, in our opinion, memorizing makes it easier to focus and improves learning.

Memorization Techniques

As mentioned above, there are specific techniques for memorization that make good use of your time and help you learn. However, initially, it takes some time to learn these techniques but your time will be well-spent. Here are just a few techniques.

1. Memory Palace or Method of Loci
This is the most effective technique there is to memorize most things. The idea is to build a story around a location using action and objects. Often a character is used too. The idea is that your brain remembers things more easily using a story and having several different connections. Recollection can then be done through one of several routes which makes it easier to access. The book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything is an excellent book on this technique and it is entertaining to read.

2. Number Association
A technique to remember numbers is to associate a character, an action and an object with each number (usually starting with 0-99) and then building a story to help remember the number.

Getting Started

We have only touched the surface of memorization and there are lots of other techniques. Personal experience is the only way to convince yourself that memorizing will help you learn. So you need to research this subject yourself.
To get started, we recommend that you read the book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything and go to Tim Moser's site Master of Memory. Remember, this won't be easy but it will be worth it.

Master of Memory - This guy has a free course that demonstrates and helps you learn the memory palace technique. He also discusses how to remember names and faces, numbers, poems, foreign language vocabulary and other things.

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