Memory. Taught or Inherent?

Posted by Rhys on Feb 21, 2016

Having watched the TED talk by Matthew Syed and read the article by Willingham I am very open to the idea of how a lack of memory recall might be affecting students ability at mathematics. They discuss how if we don’t practice something regularly we forget how to retrieve those memories that show us the way through the problem. As well as recall the idea of practice makes perfect is also discussed in the video.

In the instance of lack of practice Syed discussed the how professional sportsmen may be able to spot things that are invisible to you and me. This is because even though these things may seem invisible to you and I, to a professional they are seen as clear as day. This is due to their brains having years of practice and training in order to be able to spot these things. It can be argued that if we had spent the same amount of time studying and learning we would be just as capable of spotting these subtly differences in a situation that may appear identical to the one before. This can be conveyed in mathematics with the idea of how every impossible or difficult question is made up of a combination of much simpler mathematics. This is the idea of growth mindset that Carol Dweck discussed. This is because our ability to solve a problem can be improved through practice and training.

However, the idea of growth mindsets boils down to the individual themselves. This is because if the student does not have the desire to improve and achieve better grades and results. Then they will not push themselves to achieve this. Therefore I believe the idea of growth mindsets needs to be taught to students from a young age. To get across this idea that getting a question wrong does not mean you are failing, it just means you must work harder in those specific areas. If we can do this then students will be much more inclined to go away and work on these personal areas for development on their own. This links in with something Ken Robinson said on how the way teachers mark students work can directly affect their mindset. This is because as a teacher we must not simply mark it wrong we must tell the student why it is wrong and show them the ways of correcting these problems. Which once again supports the idea of teaching students the idea of a growth mindset.

The article also discusses how students might find it difficult to recall certain information to be abke to solve problems. I agree that students do struggle to find the memories that they require. Which is why I also believe that teachers need to be more creative in the classroom. This is because I feel that if a student can have a memorable experience in the classroom they are more likely to be able to recall the information that was taught in that lesson at a later date.

Overall I feel that students need to be taught ways of improving their memory and how they can help themselves through the idea of growth mindsets.

1 Comment

  1. Senay
    21 February 2016

    This is a good thought-piece Rhys with some good original analysis. You have linked the concept of students improving their memories with teacher creativity which is very interesting. It seems obvious but good delivery of the material is the starting point for every student. I agree that students should be shown techniques to improve their memory and that initially in the education system more time should be devoted to helping students learn how to learn.

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