Skip to main

March 28, 2024

Yes, Students Still Need to Memorize

Students have grown up relying on their calculators and Googling everything. During the pandemic more than ever before, tests were open books and open notes. It’s easy to believe that spending time memorizing vocabulary, formulas, and key facts is wasted. Not true.

Learning is and always will be an incremental process. If the foundational information isn’t firmly in a student’s memory, it’s much harder to learn the next concept. For example, reading begins with sight words but quickly requires mastery of new vocabulary, decoding, and making meaningful connections. If students don’t know sight words, they are less likely to have the mental energy to sound out longer words and make sense of what they read. 

Similarly, all math relies heavily on math facts, and in higher grades, properties, and formulas. 4th graders might conceptually understand long division, but if they need to put in effort to subtract nine minus three, they might run out of mental energy on these longer multi-step problems. What started as a math fact automaticity problem can quickly spiral into a lack of math confidence that never goes away.

While tools and technology can be helpful for a student who has yet to memorize core information, they are not a substitution for knowing. Expertise and mastery in any skill requires automaticity with core information. Just as we don’t want our doctor to need to look up human anatomy during an office visit, our students should not be doing math facts on a calculator or using spell check and grammar check for every sentence. 

If your students have knowledge gaps, you can use these proven memory strategies to fill them. Keep in mind that students vary widely in their memory skills. Some have strong verbal memory and might only need strategies when memorizing pictures or formulas. Other very capable students might need a lot more memory support than you realize – understanding is a very different skill than memorizing! Be sure to prioritize your strategy choice based on your student’s strongest memory skill to make memorizing as efficient as possible.

Use Pictures if you have stronger visual skills

Say It Aloud if you have stronger verbal skills.

Spaced Practice is good for everyone, but particularly if your memory is not as strong as other skills.

Math Facts are key for all students who haven’t yet developed automaticity


About the Author

Nancy Weinstein is the co-founder and CEO of MindPrint Learning. Inspired by her own experience trying to understand how her daughter learned, Nancy launched MindPrint Learning, an MTSS solution that uses objective cognitive data to teach students how they learn best and provides strategies personalized to students’ learning strengths and needs. In addition to founding MindPrint, Nancy is also the co-author of The Empowered Student: A Guide to Self-Regulated Learning. Nancy holds a BSE in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Business and Administration from Harvard.

Share

Search the K12 Hub

More From Teaching Channel

Nurturing the Whole Gifted Child

Students identified as gifted excel in academics, but their journey is not without challenges. While student’s intellectual abilities shine, it’s crucial to address their social-emotional

Recommended Courses

Maximizing Learning for All through Differentiation

Instructional Strategies

#5151

Grade

PK-12+

Flex Credit

$189

3 Credits

$475

Differentiated Learning: How to Teach to Varying Ability Levels

Instructional Strategies

#717

Grade

K-12+

3 Credits

$475

SEL Skills and Practices for High Potential and Gifted Students

Special Populations

#5299

Grade

K-12+

Flex Credit

$189

3 Credits

$475

Want to partner with us?

We’re always looking for new authors! If you’re interested in writing an article, please get in touch with us.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Get notified of new content added to K12 Hub.

Pay As You Learn with our flexible payment plan - starting from $75 per month! Learn More >>
close-image