Some students approach school as though it’s a game of memorizing new information, writing it down on a test page and then forgetting about it forever. How can you move beyond this, to make your learning more valuable and long-lasting?
One answer is to build connections. Think of your brain as a big spiderweb of ideas, thoughts and memories. When you drop a new concept in, the more strands you can stick to it, the more likely you are to retain it, and the easier it will be to find. Instead of thinking about new information in isolation, find out how it connects to what you already know.
Consider these strategies:
New mathematical concepts can seem mysterious, but often they are just the same methods you already know applied to more complex situations.
For example, if you stop and think about what’s really happening when you multiply numbers like 97 x 86 (something you already know), you might notice that you are using the same principles when you learn how to multiply binomials like (x-2)(3x+4) (new knowledge built on the old!).
Check out Vi Hart’s explanation with doodles.
Make sense of numbers
Too often we gloss over large numbers without fully processing their relative size. Try to consider them in terms of the familiar.
Canada’s federal debt is $560 billion. I’ve never earned a billion dollars, but I have earned minimum wage. A bit of googling and a quick calculation shows that if all Canadians worked full-time at minimum wage, it would take close to a year to earn $560 billion.
The Great Wall of China spans 8800km. How much of Canada would that cover?
Map a new process or idea onto something simpler or more familiar.
Learning about cell-structure in biology? Think of each cell as a factory, with each cellular component representing a particular job or location.
Photo credit: Luc Viatour © GFDL