On rote memorization and antiquated skills

Daniel Lemire, Mar 10, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"To my surprise," writes Daniel Lemire, "there is an abundant supply of teachers and parents openly supporting rote memorization and antiquated skills." He then deals with some of the objections people raise. Like, for example, learning to do long division by hand to understand what's "under the hood". Well, what is under the hood? "How processors do divisions is not quite like pen-and-paper long division." That's true with most mathematics 'foundations' - they're not foundational at all! Another objection he meets is that the information memorized is useful. Well, maybe it is. But "rote memorization on its own is theory divorced from practice." If you get in the practice, then if it's actually useful, it will be remembered pretty quickly. And what's key is this: "Nobody ever became a great mathematician, or even a good one, by relying on rote memorization." (Image)

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