Learning to memorize something without any connection seems like a near impossible feat. Memorizing a map is very difficult for me when I travel, I need it with me the whole time to connect landmarks, buildings and other streets to remember the streets I have been on.
I still haven’t figured out exactly how I ever memorized my multiplication facts as a child. It must have been a miracle, although I do remember having to actually re-LEARN my facts when I became a math teacher. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that fact, but when I sit back and think about it, should I be embarrassed about that?
I think I was made to believe that the faster I could recite those facts the smarter I was. The more I memorized in math, the better math student I was. I had no idea why I did any of the things I did and just hoped I could rely on my memory. I was one of the lucky students that was able to do this…especially in high school math.
But students who cannot easily memorize have to have something else to connect these facts to. After exploring the meaning of a fact like 5 x 7 (5 bags of 7 apples, 5 packs of 7 pieces of gum, 5 rows of 7 seats), we started to draw visuals of these things.
Isn’t this good for all students? Not just those who struggle? The answer is YES. With a commitment to conceptual understanding we set them up for success in higher level math courses.