Memorization in Math is Still Key

Many math teachers like to emphasize the importance of understanding concepts and acquiring knowledge as it relates to math. This means that the learning done in math class should be in the form of skills and transferable knowledge that you can utilize in a variety of practical ways. This is one of the reasons why teachers and curriculum planners like to incorporate “word problems,” or example scenario questions in the form of a written sentence or paragraph, into most new topics you learn - our experienced online math tutors are here to help.

Like any other class, acquiring the skills in a transferrable way is intrinsically important. The information you learn in school should be information that is useful to you in some way: whether it will be used in day-to-day life, used in future important classes, used to promote your quality of life and understanding of the world around you, used to introduce you to new topics you may find passion for, or simply used to challenge you to stimulate your brain to handle difficult problems and accomplish complex tasks. Regardless, the classes you take in your education should have some value.

This is why math teachers want you to apply math elsewhere. They want to demonstrate how each topic is used outside of math class – be it an example of Johnny buying watermelons in bulk, Suzie measuring the dimensions of furniture, or Taylor calculating the final velocity of a rocket. These examples are supposed to show students why math is valuable and worth your time to learn. It also trains you to use your knowledge in different ways for when you may want or need to do so in the future; you don’t want your math skills to be limited to only being able to solve equations on a worksheet.

However, this is all to say that the application and understanding of math still in partnership with essential fact memorization. It is useful if you can apply your math knowledge to the world around you, and it is great if you want always to understand the meaning behind every new equation, but this should be done along with your core work of memorizing important concepts.

This involves mathematical operations, problem solving sequences, vocabulary, core equations, and common patterns. To provide some examples, you need to be memorizing things like: your times tables and common sums, differences, roots, powers, and other operations; the order of operations and its use both forwards and backwards; common and important geometric equations and definitions like angle measures, circle formulas, and triangle equations; and patterns to efficiently identify and solve common integrals.

These skills can have components of deeper understanding and transferrable knowledge. They can all be incorporated into word problems and similar lesson structures as well. However, they can usually be learned and mastered effectively and efficiently via more typical memorization techniques. This means repetition and recall. It means using studying techniques like flash cards, lesson techniques that involve many examples with a lot of repetition, and timed quizzes and reviews. These skills need to be mastered and memorized so that you are able to have a deeper understanding of the concepts.

When studying math, it is important to always ask why you are learning something, how the skill is used, and where you might encounter it in the future. But you must still know that more advanced math cannot be done effectively if you haven’t done the work to memorize and master the core techniques and facts.  These two concepts should be used together in your math education.

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Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerd in Irvine and Anaheim.