Dear Friends, Many students believe it’s best to leave their summer math review for the end of the summer; they fear that if they do the work too early they will have forgotten the material again by September. In fact, the best way to make learning stick is to work at it consistently and review all summer long. The brain is exposed to a barrage of information every day, so how does it decide what to keep and what to forget? One big marker is repetition. The brain receives most facts only once, and because those bits of information never show up again they don’t need to be remembered.
I get a kick out of the recent Volkswagen commercial in which two guys pile into their Passat for a road trip, and then the passenger is appalled when his driver pal announces that instead of listening to music they’re going to learn a language.
Thirteen hours later, the buddies climb out of the car at a rest stop; the friend is still highly annoyed, and he rants and fumes at his companion…in fluent Spanish:
My own kids passed a good chunk of their childhoods in the car; I’ve always been an eager and ambitious traveler, so we spent virtually every school break driving somewhere. And we made those hours pass by listening to books on tape.
One day, I was reviewing with a high school student for a final exam in history. It was rough going; the material was detailed and complex and this young man’s grasp of both the facts and the concepts was poor.
We plowed on for two solid hours, and then he turned to me and floored me with this question: “OK, now, do you think I know this stuff?”
Truly, isn’t that a remarkable thing to ask? This young man couldn’t tell for himself whether or not the hard mental work he had just done had resulted in “knowing.”
But what, indeed, does “knowing” feel like? How do any of us know whether or not we know?
I love TED talks; I watch them often, I show them in my classes, and I routinely share them with loved ones and students.
There are a number of TED talks that have, without exaggeration, profoundly and permanently changed my own life for the better.
Here’s a Thanksgiving feast for your brain, a few of my favorite websites for educational games and videos:
Sporcle has quizzes on all sorts of subject matter. How well do you know the countries of Africa, or the periodic table, or sports teams? What countries have the highest populations of turkeys?
On Quizlet you can make your own flash cards (online or printed), or use sets in their extensive collection. Brush up on your vocabulary (excellent for test prep!) or your times tables or your French verbs. I really like their “Scatter” game, one of several flashcard-flipping options you can try.
Last week I said that I see value in having kids (and all learners) memorize a certain amount of factual information.
I also said that I’m not a fan of rote memorization of multiplication “facts.” Kids should also be learning when and how to apply all of the four operations to various situations.
I loved rediscovering this little parable the other day; it really kept me going as I sat with student after student, plowing through the same chemistry review packet over and over and over…
Three brick layers were busy at work, and a passerby stopped and asked each what he was doing.
I’m laying bricks, said the first.
I’m making my living, said the second.
I’m building a cathedral, said the third.
Because wait long enough, and some amazingly smart and dedicated researcher might come up with a break-through that changes your life.
Maybe it’s medical. Maybe technological.
Or, as the field of neuroscience advances, the light bulb that clicks on is more and more often psychological.
Why do relationships fail?
When I was thirteen, my dad passed along to me his paperback copy of The Fountainhead, and by the end of high school I had read it seven times. I now know how formative those adolescent years are, how our Self is still forming and jelling during our teens, and so I understand why, to this day, The Fountainhead is such a reference point for me.
This morning we went to the Unitarian Church in Provincetown, a first visit for me as a highly reluctant church-goer. Lately, I’m challenging myself to try and sort out my extremely mixed feelings about attending church. Plenty of atheists go to Unitarian church. I should be able to do this.
Are you like this?
I’m sipping my morning coffee and reading today’s Beyond Blue. Therese Borchard reports that the sound of water calms her down. For her therapist, clouds do the trick.
Knowledge is what calms me down. Information, especially about human behavior, emotions, how the human brain works, always makes me feel better.