Sunday, October 28, 2007

What is worth memorizing?

Most of my own schooling over the years has consisted primarily of memorizing material and then showing, at least in the short term, that I could pull it up at will. Let me confess that my abilities in this area have always been rather marginal, but I was good enough at it (read stubborn) to acquire the necessary documents to allow me to be eligible for my present position.

My awareness of this difficulty with memorization started in a high school English class when I realized that my classmates were able to memorize poetry verses much faster than I was. I noticed how many were able to learn lines for a play or lyrics to a song with much more ease. What they learned by repeating a few times might take me hundreds of times along with use of a multi-sensory approach. And yes, I've tried many of the mnemonic devices.

So you see, it is quite natural that this old digital immigrant has become very comfortable with the personal computer. I don't need to keep everything in my head now that I have almost instant access to it through the Internet.

This raises the question: What IS worth memorizing?

In other words, what are those things that, by keeping in my own head, will empower me, or at the very least, allow me to function in an efficient and productive manner?

For example, knowing my home phone number and social security number seem to be handy things to have committed to memory. I still think that having memorized basic math facts has saved me a lot of agony over the years. I'm not so sure that having to memorize the periodic table in 8th grade was particularly helpful, as I'm not a chemist, rarely use it, and can find several interactive representations on the web, if needed.

So . . . what do you think? What is worth memorizing for those of us who have difficulty with it?

Another question: Should we teach students memorization skills?

Memorization Skills Resources

Memory Resources


Nicole Ouellette said...

Every job I've ever had has required me to memorize something in one form or another. I think not teaching students these skills would be a disservice to them.

Of course, I'm not sure if memorizing all 70-something prepositions in alphabetical order was a great use of my 7th grade time. . .

Anonymous said...

Hoping fervently it'd be the constructive development of memory as utilized and constructed by worldwide memory champions, the skill should absolutely be taught. It's in my opinion a mainstay of logical reasoning. The great teacher Socrates himself refused to employ the technique of writing(!), as he argued it diminished the importance of memorizing. It's been said that what you can't teach, you don't know. Chomsky says that teaching is vital to research, as research is vital to teaching. They're intrinsically united.