How We Learn & Remember
This is part 2 of 3. Go back to the beginning
Why Can’t My Child Remember?
“I bought the book and my son self-taught himself. I tested him when he finished and I’d give him an A for his answers. That was only a couple months ago and today he doesn’t get half of them right. What happened? You wrote earlier that from the 6th grade through high school a child could get A’s in every subject. You are wrong. He’s in the 3rd grade now and if all he remembers is half of what he’s taught he won’t get through the 6th grade to get into high school.”
I haven’t received the letter quoted above, but if this article were closed here, I could. The Multiplication Education book is the first step but there are two more steps that most children need to take.
“Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.”
You know that rhyme. Everyone knows that rhyme. When I think of that rhyme I imagine a girl in black shoes walking in a meadow with green grass and a flower or two, the sky is blue with a single small white cloud and the lamb’s feet and nose match the color of her shoes.
If your child knew this rhyme at the age of 2 or 3 and they aren’t remembering what they are taught in school, give them the first five words and ask them to finish the rhyme. If they can and they can describe from their imagination Mary and her lamb, their inability to remember is easy to correct. If they don’t remember the rhyme, they may need help and I’d begin with the school counselor or the family doctor.
Brain research on how we remember changes with a frequency that matches the speed of developing equipment to measure different types and locations of brain activity Therefore, what I present here today may change, but it should be close, and close enough to be of help. I have read books written by Howard Gardner, Gerald Edelman and Norman Doidge. All of them agree on at least two issues. Learning is not complete until the subject studied has moved from a temporary location into a permanent file in the brain, and the neurons that move information from locations where the information is received into temporary and ultimately into permanent storage are strengthened by repetitive use. The common phrase is, “Neurons that fire together, wire together”.
From all of this, it seems that the best way to have a good memory is to get the neurons that are transmitting the data, to be strengthened by wiring together. The analogy is that to go from here to a place some distance away there are two choices: take the back road and enjoy the scenery or take the freeway and get there now. To move data in the brain we want to get there now, we want to wire those neurons together. We want the information we are putting into the brain to be moved as quickly and efficiently as possible. If there is a problem with a neuron we don’t want to take a detour, we want another neuron that will do the job; we want those neurons wired together.
This is why golfers spend hours on the practice tee, it’s why tennis and baseball players hit balls thrown toward them by a machine for hours, the same for musicians, practicing their parts for hours, they all practice until their performance is A or A+ and unless your child has the natural ability approaching that of an intellectual genius, it may take hours and hours of practice to get those neurons wired together, but it works. Repeating an activity, learning how to do it correctly and then repeating the same thing over and over wires those neurons together.
There’s a difference between athletic ability and intellectual ability because if a golfer wants to become a tennis player they have to start over to train a new set of muscles and to get them coordinated to perform correctly. But if a student, in the process of learning basic arithmetic, gets those neurons wired together, they can be used to learn and remember anything. It’s the gift of the smart pill except you don’t have to take it every morning, just use it often enough so that the highway doesn’t turn to dust and fall apart.
How do these neurons get wired together? We don’t have any proof to back up anything that follows, and I’ll admit that some parts of the preceding two or three paragraphs could be questioned, but the circumstantial evidence is there. We believe that solving simple one and two-digit addition problems is a good place to start. This is not a test and the problems should not be difficult because the answers have to be the same each time the problem is repeated. The only goal is to have the child see and/or hear the numbers and orally solve the problem. The same process with different numbers, repeated over and over and over. The numbers on the page need to be random and drawing them from a paper sack can do this. The same pages can be used for subtraction. The next step is multiplication and division. For grade school students in the higher grades, multiplying a two-digit number by a single digit, 80 problems answered orally in about 2 minutes and getting them all correct, is only a slight challenge, and it can be done.
Start with randomly designed pages of the one-digit addition problems doing a different page, several times a day. The use of classical music, almost any of the Mozart symphonies or piano concertos as quiet background music may help to wire the neurons together.
We have a separate article on preparing a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to select random numbers. We give you all the formulas for the numbers and the cells where they are placed. A hundred pages could be printed and each page will be different. These spreadsheets are for learning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This article also has suggestions on foods to eat, or not to eat for mental alertness (absolutely no caffeine and no sugar or sugar substitutes), and activities that will help to keep the child alert and interested in learning.
All arithmetic problems are randomly selected and printed from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (currently available for PC only). We provide all the information to enter the necessary formulas so that even if you are not familiar with Excel spreadsheet programming, you can do this. Item #1 on the check out page is the Multiplication Education book and Item #2 is the Arithmetic Excel spreadsheet.