Rote Memorization is Applied Wisdom

Math is one of the most basic skills, which aids the living of life to the fullest.

However, exercising of math skills can seem almost natural for some, while being nearly hopeless for others.

There is some truth to this perception, but understanding this fact leads to hope, not despair.

By way of explanation, this slightly-long preamble is not being submitted with the intent of being needlessly tedious.  This background material is illustrative of this very subject, being discussed.

In Math class, we are taught to deal with problems.

For many, (if not most,) students engaging math at all is a problem,…at least in the initial stages of learning math facts, skills, and applications.

Why is this so critical to rendering the best methods?  As the reader may be well-aware, students range widely in styles of learning, due to the “brain-wiring” of each that is different that goes so far beyond apparent as to be palpable at times.

Teaching the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables are arguably best learned, through some regimen of rote memorization.

Though rote memorization has gotten an undeserved “bad rap” for decades, it does seem to be making a come-back, presently, and rightfully so.

Rote memorization is applied-wisdom, taken from the principles of agriculture, and the maintenance of physical fitness.

Farmers plow their fields in clear, strong, straight rows at the proper depth for seeds to have the greatest potential for growth.

Individuals, who wish to maintain the health of their bodies, repeat actions consistently every week for the building of the muscles, which keep bodies ambulatory as well as functioning in all other ways that maintain life.

Students repeat math tables in order to cut the grooves of logical-thinking patterns in the brain.  This will aid future success in all areas of life as the young math student grows into adulthood.

Auditory-learners may learn their math facts by hearing, “One plus zero equals one.  One plus one equals two.  One plus two equals three…”

Visual-learners consistently benefit from flash cards.  They could see, “1+0=1; 1+1=2; 1+2=3…”

Tactile-learners can increase understanding of these addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts by manipulating shaped-blocks (i.e. blocks, having end-shapes of circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, parallelograms, hexagons, etc.,) that have different colors for each shape.  They could touch and see, “One circle-block plus no other circle-block equals the same circle-block; one circle-block plus one more circle-block equals two circle-blocks; one circle-block plus two more circle-blocks equals three circle-blocks…”

Visual-learners would understandably benefit from the cubes as well since seeing blocks, seeing shapes, and seeing colors add multiple-layers of sight to the additional sense of touch.

Auditory-learners could be expected to benefit as well from the colored-shapes method, if the teacher, if a parent, or if a teacher’s assistant will simply work closely with the student, saying the words, “One plus zero equals one.  One plus one equals two.  One plus two equals three…”  These students would be hearing the facts, seeing the facts, and touching the facts.

What does all of this prove?  This underscores the truth that excellent teachers have understood for much of history.  The more senses that are engaged in the learning process the more long-term the knowledge becomes.

To this point, taste and smell are the two senses that have not been mentioned.

Taste and smell can be included in the study of math facts, but additional planning and cost-benefits analysis is paramount for the teacher before using these two important senses.

Putting peas on the plate of every student in the class would meet the requirements for small objects that can be easily manipulated, but the potential for negative-association for students, who do not like to eat peas, could be counter-productive.  (Beyond that, “fingers in the peas” is generally considered to be socially-unacceptable, not to mention the fact that it is good ammunition for “food fights.”)

However, by simply substituting M&Ms or Skittles in the place of the peas as a visual-tactile object of choice for teaching math facts would undoubtedly increase the activation of the pleasure-centers in the brains of each diminutive human being, while increasing the feeling of “herding cats” in the stress-center of the adult brains in the vicinity.

With proper planning the use of small edibles can be used to engage all five senses in the learning of math facts.

Such a math lesson before an extended recess period is advisable, unless the teacher enjoys cleaning “trashed” classrooms with frazzled-hair, while the students take the unscheduled “Daddy Day Care” nap, lying on their faces with sprawling appendages.