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Learning Mathematics Through Memorising


Have you ever tried memorising a vast amount of mathematical facts and equations including its steps while learning mathematics? Although the going is tough, the results may be good and even encouraging. This approach of learning mathematics may seem acceptable to elementary mathematics education or other knowledge-based subjects, for example, geography. But, can this approach fits learning at a higher level of education?

At elementary mathematics level, the amount of mathematical facts to be absorbed may not be large enough to cause any concern and attention. Therefore with the good results that it sometimes show, the approach of learning mathematics by memorising can be accepted. But is that the correct or suitable way forward in mathematics education?

For higher level of mathematics learning, where more in-depth mathematical concepts and expressions are involved, memorizing the mathematical tools, concepts and various steps become a challenging task. Many a times, we heard of students who practiced the memorising method suffered drastically at this higher level of mathematics learning. This failure caused them to fear mathematics topics and forced them into the dreadful mathematics anxiety situation. Their confidence dipped when solving mathematics questions. Mathematics at a higher level requires a combination of mathematical solving methods and in-depth analysis of the mathematics problems. Selecting a suitable solving tools and its associated strategy to solve a mathematics question or problem cannot be achieved by the memorising approach as the mixture is too wide a scope to handle. Learning mathematics at that education level, therefore, takes on a different platform.

A platform to learning mathematics better is to focus on the understanding of the mathematical concepts as compared to placing facts as the main target of learning. We should focus and learn the why of the solving procedure instead of the how, although both complement each other. This approach is generic in that practice can start from day one of the mathematics class. Forming the habit to understand mathematical concepts will benefit them when they later encounter advanced mathematics in their quest for higher mathematics learning. The reason why mathematics is treated as a special subject is that it differs from the rest of the knowledge-based subjects in that its language is embedded in its mathematical variables, expressions and equations. There can be many flexible ways of asking a simple mathematics question. Without a decent level of concept understanding, it will be difficult to move ahead and solve the mathematics questions, unless applying the undesired memorizing approach.

Learning mathematics can best be obtained by relating the mathematical facts with analytical skill where conceptualization is part of it. The mathematical relationships or linkages formed over time will be toughened when practising the many mathematics questions. The true ability to handle any mathematics questions at any time shows one's mastery of the learned topics through real understanding of its concepts and applications. Learning mathematics through memorising will not achieve this outcome as memory fades with time, coupled with the large amount of information. Retention of knowledge goes hand in hand with the depth of understanding.

Albert Einstein once said "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school." Learning mathematics through understanding is a sure way of having obtained a skill to retain knowledge for a long time. Purely memorizing facts, not only has its negative impact, but causes the knowledge learned to disappear with time and makes mathematics education meaningless.

In summary, learning mathematics is best achieved when focus is in concept understanding as compared to the dry rigid approach of memorizing mathematical facts. The outcome will last longer with true comprehension of mathematics and its applications. Build a mental discipline to foster a habit to approach mathematics tutorials with understanding of concepts instead of memorising the numerical facts and specific steps in any given mathematics examples. The habit formed will allow less resistant to acceptance of advance mathematical concepts later on in higher level of mathematics education.