Next message: Mayol Santiago: "RE: [Channel-talkmathhs] mnemonics"
Mnemonics are just that: tools for remembering. There's information we
want to remember and have trouble with: mnemonics are a great way to
organize all kinds of things into a format that goes into memory in an
organized, recoverable way. I've used mnemonic systems to remember all
the US presidents by number, so that if given the name, I can give the
number and vice versa. It isn't something I actually have a use for,
but doing it proved to me that the system could work (I use some of the
things taught in books by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas, and by Bruno
H. Furst, but most of these methods are very old), and I later used it
to remember the entire periodic table of elements. Of course, since I
have little use for that either and don't refresh the knowledge, gaps
have opened in it over the years.
Things we use frequently, however, are easier to retain. Eventually, if
you use something a lot, chances are you'll retain it pretty easily.
But mnemonics can make it easier and more enduring. And there's nothing
wrong with them.
On the other hand, memorizing facts and lists and formulas is NOT
understanding. So let's not decry mnemonic devices for failing to do
what they never were designed to accomplish. Rather, let's be
thoughtful about what kids need to memorize, make sure we have given
that some serious consideration and not just passed along traditions
that can no longer be justified, and give them reasonable schemes and
tools for doing so. And at the same time, let's make sure we and they
know the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing
something, to paraphrase from Richard Feynman (and probably a host of
other wise folks).
Michael Paul Goldenberg, Director
1810 Fair St
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
734 644-0975 (c)
"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty
or your recklessness ... If it were in my power to forgive you for your
reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man, but
your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me ... Sir,
at long last, have you no sense of decency?” (Joseph Welch, during the
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