I've gotten into a rhythm, four new sentences per day which at my memorization rate works out to ~60 cards to review a day. Thus 20-30 minutes per day of review. It has become such a part of my day that skipping a day makes the day feel like a massive failure.
Its interesting how 4 cards can translate into 60 even with high memorization rates: for every card you add you'll see it again in 2 days, ~4 days, ~8 days, ~2 weeks, ~1 month, ~2 months, ~4 months, ~8 months, ~1 year... A review session is thus made up of multiple standing waves. The effect is noticeable you'll see a workload increase as the next standing wave of review starts. Right now some reviewed cards are getting scheduled next in ~8 years!
I think sentences are also a much better way to learn than learning single vocabulary words, because they show the usage of the word in context. This is very important for speaking naturally and idiomatically.
Once you get beyond a beginner level, choosing a direction of study can be a little difficult. My technique is to find sentences or phrases from conversations I have with people, books/articles I read, and from movies/television shows - and then input it into the SRS. Preferably, each sentence has 1 new novel phrase or vocabulary word. Although this can be time consuming it gives a huge benefit. Let me give an example:
Question side: “問題是。。。你不覺得這樣，很。。。虛偽嗎？"
Answer side: 虛偽 (xūwěi - hypocritical, artificial)
The contrast of this method would be to find "pre-made" decks of cards for sentences in the language you are learning, but I find that it is harder to remember the items when the sentences are not as meaningful to you.
A key point for using SRS effectively is to use to review material already learned, not to learn new never before seen material. The article itself even mentions this.
(Also, Mnemosyne is my SRS of choice http://mnemosyne-proj.org/, but Anki is a good choice too.)
The absolutely great thing about Pleco is that it is a great dictionary app and a document reader in the same app. When you see the solution of a flash card, it usually includes a handful of example sentences. You can then tap on words in these sentences and see their definition again... It is a little like getting stuck in Wikipedia - sometimes I spend half an hour only reading examples starting from my current flashcard.
I have no solid statistics on this, but I feel that the context really helps me to memorise things :)
Can you give details on how you're doing this?
Like what you use for initially learning the material and what you use for SRS?
My process is to add 4 cards everyday. These sentences come from posts in my RSS feed. Over the years I found websites that interest me. Take for instance http://blog.esuteru.com/ which has a very 2ch style of news, not safe for work but often interesting. Or I'll stumble upon people's blogs. For example "KEN's": http://qoqpop.blog123.fc2.com/ He is a phone "otaku" who often travels to china and Mexico for business trips. I found his blog in a N900 related search. The open source community also has plenty of japanese bloggers. For instance http://d.hatena.ne.jp/naruoga/ is the blog of a Debian translator and a journalist who I found through the OpenPrinting working group.
Some words are so well known that new cards do not contain their pronunciation. A new card may have 7 kanji words but only the hiragana for only 2 of those words. Likewise a card may only contain translation for one or two words. As time goes on I also select more difficult sentences. In both cases a premade deck cannot match your learning curve like self-made decks can.
I must also give credit for AllJapaneseAllTheTime for getting me excited about learning and for how to use SRS.
A typical card of mine might be:
That example has every pronunciation and translation. A real card would not have 歯 at all since I know it by heart. 質 and 最 would not have translations. Also notice how this is not a full sentence. Japanese often features many run-on sentences so I split them. Also notice there is no sentence scope translation.
AllJapaneseAllTheTime now suggests a newer format which features partial-ization of compound words which should work better for new decks: http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/10000-sentences-is...
I've been using a standalone SRS app on my iPhone (StickyStudy) and about a year ago learned all N4/N5 vocab (ie, not just the kanji). But I'm having trouble making the jump to full-on sentences/text like that since there are too many unknown kanji or grammatical structures. StickyStudy does have a bunch of sample sentences for any one kanji or vocab word, which is great, but the learning focuses on the kanji or vocab words themselves, not sentences. So the ability to use the kanji in context of sentences is much harder.
I'd love to get to the point of being able to read webpages like that.
Earlier on I could not understand most sentences. At that time I would select the sentences I thought I knew. My understanding has expanded over time I think with great credit to anime and drama. I'm at ~330 series of anime/drama completed. Even before I started studying I had maybe 100 series completed.
Still a big thing for me is to card a sentence even if I do not understand it. The critical attribute I am looking for is "Is this a sentence I would like to learn?". Once it is in the deck I should understand it at some point in time. It may take a year but at least by then I will be able to pronounce every word in said sentence.
Even still there are some sentences I do not understand but those are often found in subjects I haven’t explored. Computer interfaces are 100% ok. Tech news likewise.
Start small and just never stop. Some of my first sentences were from children’s comics. I even have a few from pokemon games.
Instead sentences also let me remember context. Some cards might be speculation on a video game long since released. Others topical news reports long since over. Others might be internet slang which you would not want to memorize without the context to avoid confusion. I think this is vital since Japanese is so context sensitive.
I downloaded a nice kana set (with audio) but somehow they just didn't click. Anki eventually classed most of them as leeches and I stopped trying.
Don't worry too much about kana. It feels impossible now but it will become second nature. At some point you will hate it when someone uses romaji since kana is so much easier to read.
I do remember using the "Remembering the Kana" book: http://www.amazon.co.jp/Remembering-Kana-The-Hiragana-Kataka... which I can recommend 100%. The 3 hours claim is accurate from what I remember but do follow the book's suggested breaks.
I'm currently reading The Structure of the Japanese Language, and that is indeed the case (the book doesn't use kana, maybe it was difficult to typeset at that time). And I'm not at all proficient with the language at this point, nor have I studied kana specifically. I've struggled a lot with it initially, but consistently refused to read or write romaji, which may have helped.
(Having just recently returned to the RTK deck after a break, I feel it's not enough and I probably should be working through words or sentences already, maybe in parallel. Thank you for describing the various aspects of your workflow in this thread!)
This site looks like it might be on the right track. http://drmoku.com/hiragana-free/
Using flashcards to learn mathematics, computer programming, physics, or anything requiring more creative or analytical thought is not so useful. For these subjects the number of raw facts required is usually smaller, and the thought processes, concepts and problem solving ability are much more important.
However, spaced repetition could be beneficial to these more creative and analytical subjects if it was applied more dynamically. In this case the units to learn could be the rules, laws, concepts which can manifest themselves in different ways within different problems, instead of being static flashcards. Does anyone know of software which works in this way?
My interest in this stems from http://readlang.com, a site I'm working on at the moment for learning foreign languages. I use SRS to keep track of words, but in future it could be nice to think about applying SRS to grammatical concepts too.
My programming flash card usually consists of evaluating pieces of code like:
Evaluate the following:
puts "Hello world"
I cannot memorize the solution as if I memorize the answer to multiplication problems, which is just straight rote memorization. I memorize the process for code evaluation instead. In any case, I do not think anki and similar spaced repetition flash card software are in any way a replacement for actually just writing code and solving lot of different problems. They are always complementary to learning the materials in other ways.
Imagine if instead of static flashcards there the SRS worked on items like:
- the '+' operator
Then an algorithm would generate problems incorporating those concepts. The exact same problem would never appear twice so you can't learn by rote and it ensures you actually learn the concepts. Your progress on each concept would be tracked by the SRS algorithm to help schedule your learning.
I think this would be a huge improvement on static flashcards.
But so far no one has stepped up and done the programming & card writing to demonstrate it, aside from perhaps Khan Academy (they generate questions, AFAIK, and are supposed to have incorporated spaced repetition at some point).
You can learn more about our philosophy here: http://lymboo.com/about and
And above all, it's just another chance to look over things you already should know. I won't claim that it's more or less useful than reading a textbook for the equivalent amount of time or doing problems, but it's certainly more useful than doing nothing.
P.S. Anki has very nice LaTeX support! I don't know about the others, but this is invaluable for math.
Every time I learn about a new topic/concept/technique I will add a card to my anki deck with the topic name. E.g. Today I have added JS Promises.
Then when a topic comes up for review I spend 10-15 minutes reviewing my knowledge and trying to probe my mind for parts I do not understand and trying to link it to, and see how it can be used with, other related techniques.
After reviewing I then spend 30 minutes to 1 hour investigating the technique in more depth. At this point I'll try and implement an aspect of it in code or see if I can answer a few problems people are having with the topic on stack overflow.
Then I will add a few notes to the card detailing what I have done so that I can make my next "review" of the card more challenging.
All up each review for a card takes close to 1.5 hours. I tend to have 1-2 cards come up per day to review.
I find it has given me a broad, and usable, understanding of software engineering practice and principles and has made me a better developer. The downside is I feel you will never become a master at these topics using this technique as the time investment per topic is just not enough.
I started using it because I found I had an experts understanding of some topics and a very weak understanding of other fundamental areas of computer science and software engineering. E.g. 1000+ hours of crafting complex regular expressions but lacking a proper understanding of the relational model and how a database table join works.
I would be really interested to see if there is any literature that examines using SRS in this manner (as opposed to learning simple facts).
I thought you were wrong for a second, since there are a lot of definitions and theorems that are probably good to know on the fly. But then I thought about learning about the meaning of greek letters; okay, but in what context...
Problems arise in practical situations when you want to pass an exam. Or a couple of them in a certain period of time.
Proponents of SR will say that it takes at least 6 times the amount of time/effort over learning "short term". So if you are learning for an exam, you better have plenty of time to spare. And you better start early, like 6 months before the exam. All that makes it pretty useless in a lot of situations I've been in.
Short term learning isn't as bad as it looks. If you really "cram" for an exam, and you think you forgot all of it a couple of days or weeks later, that's not what happened. Instead, your brain is now primed for the material, and when you come into contact with it later, a lot of information is still there and re-learning will be easier.
This is a bit of a strawman. If you need to pass an exam quickly, you should and will "cram". Afterward, you can resume your spaced repetition learning.
The big misunderstanding is that an education is not about the amount or ratio of details retained in memory, but rather the mental infrastructure that was built by learning it, even for a short period of time.
I don't even agree that there is such a "disparity between academic achievement and actual competence". Anyone who demands more long term strategies has to demand a big reduction in the amount of information studied or increase the duration of the educational programs.
So if you use SRS effectively, you can actually spend considerably less time studying. If you cram for each test, you're essentially crunching a bunch of data into short term memory, forgetting it, and then having to crunch a lot of it back in for the next exam. Then, for the final, you end up having to cram all of it in. Essentially, you're paying the cost of short term memorization over and over again, every time you have an exam.
If you use SRS and use it daily over the course of the entire semester, you'll only pay that cost once. And since you'll still have the information in your brain in between exams, your mind will be able to more effectively connect new information to old than if you cram and forget.
This particular page is one of the most citation-stuffed pages on my site, and I read everything I link if the fulltext is available (which is currently almost all of them after my last batch of requests)... I know I spent at least 40 hours compiling the core of the literature review for the LW contest, and I feel like that was less than half the time I spent writing the rest of it, updating it with new papers, that sort of thing, so I would guess this took somewhere upwards of 80 hours.
Anyways, I ended up dumping SuperMemo because once my item database grew I became too lazy to spend 30 minutes (or more!) each day going through this drill. I might get back to it at some point, though.
Edit: By the way, SuperMemo offers a few more interesting tools.
One is "Incremental Reading", where you can import an article or text file into SM and SM will let you incrementally process it.
For example, it might pop up as part of your repetition routine, and you can read a few paragraphs (you read as much as you want), and pick out the important parts of what you've read (parts you want to remember). Once you're done reading, you continue and the whole text will come up again and again, until you finish reading it and then you can dismiss it.
The parts you cut out from the text become separate learning items and they too will come up in your daily routines, which let you further work on them until you ultimately reduce them into a Question & Answer form.
Another tool is sleeping monitoring. SM will let you track your sleep data, and it will tell you how your sleep affects your memory performance.
> Anyways, I ended up dumping SuperMemo because once my item database
> grew I became too lazy to spend 30 minutes (or more!) each
> day going through this drill.
When I started, it wasn't obvious, but clearly there is an upper limit on the rate of new entries that the system can support. Plus, you have to factor in time spent doing data entry. I think these factors combine to make for a life-time limit on the number of entries. Suppose you use SuperMemo for 20 years (7300 days) at 2 hours per day (14600 hours) and 100 new entries per day. That's only 1.4 million unique entries.. (this analysis is severely lacking and deserves more thought).
Insert here some humbling story about the benefits of improving meta-aspects of how and what you pick to spend time on. Obviously, inserting everything you ever come across into SuperMemo is a bad idea.
Anyway, then I realized this was all stupid because I remembered everything anyway. So now I'm off SuperMemo. Hooray memory!
That's fairly similar to Wozniak's estimates: http://www.supermemo.com/articles/theory.htm
In the FAQ he estimates that probably 200k is the max for most people.
> Anyway, then I realized this was all stupid because I remembered everything anyway. So now I'm off SuperMemo. Hooray memory!
Fortunate for you, but the rest of us must make do with our fallible memories. :)
I review all the due items in less than 30 minutes, always. Then I fill it up to 30 minutes with new materials, sometime going a few minutes beyond 30 minutes, because the materials sometime requires some time to learn.
(I wish there is a accessible book that rigorously about which habit building strategies work according to scientific research)
Not saying it is a scam, but I'm weary of clicking through.
It's all automated via email, so it can be free. It is quite simple and effective but applying the rules in a general sense is something you'll have to master over time.
Also although BJ Fogg has my email address, he's never tried to sell me anything after the program finished, even though I note from his updated site he's got a new certification to be a coach program going on.
The anecdote where Hamming went to Bode's office to talk about Turkey was like a lightning ! Is it possible to see so many great names in one paragraph !
I've always seen some analogies in things with half-life and the charge and discharge of capacitors.
I'll give an example: I've always thought about learning as a capacitor charging through a resistance, and thought about the RC constant. In my mind, it takes relatively a short period of time to get to 63.2%, but it takes a very long time to get from 63.2% (it will never reach that, since it's an exponential).
What this tells me about learning ? Pick a field and then decide how much do you want to master it. Then know that it'll take you longer to get from 63.2% to 100% (which you will never achieve). An example would be the fact that English is my fifth language, which I only started speaking in 2009. Do I want to be an English major and write in a Kipling way, or do I want to have a command good enough to get my message to you (and possibly learn other languages) ?
It depends, but I find it a fascinating subject.
The other funny thing is that I used a mix of cramming and spaced repetition to study: I used to skip college for a year, and then get a month and go hard-core. Five courses. I'd draw a pentagon with the five courses and study two courses a day. 1,2 - 3,4 - 5,1 - 2,3 - 4,5 - 1,2 ...
You'll notice that I go back to each module each other day. The results I got from that are just astounding, as I was capable to memorize entire pages, chapters and I would see them. I would know exactly where I've written my notes on which pages. I aced the final exam of physics and had the best grade with questions that were never asked before (it was theory, and no 'values' or 'calculations' were there). I was writing things I've never written before, but I knew my maths checked out because I just knew. These weren't exercises or something.. I've been accused of cheating many times. A part of me found it insulting, the other part found it flattering as you only accuse someone of cheating if what he did was an accomplishment.
But wait, let's take a step back. Does it really matter if I can recall all this engineering material? Supposedly my brain "knows" enough of it such that if there were a big project in a field requiring that knowledge, then I could relearn it all, because I've been trained to think in a way pertinent to that material. Is my time better spent just learning new topics and building things, which is what I currently do? Why dwell on having perfect recall? It only seems to benefit test takers.
I would love to hear counter-arguments for why SRS for engineering materials would be a good idea for those no longer in school, maybe then I'll be motivated to build some gamified spaced repetition software. It'll need to be fun and reward-based, imo.
Your distinction between learning facts and learning ways of thinking is interesting. Most of the spaced repetition research and design is around fact recall--what's called "paired associates" because you recall some response paired with some stimulus. I don't have any evidence for it, but I'd say that the schema can be lost just as well as facts can be.
One thing I will say is that spaced repetition is generally known for the repetition--that you retain something over time, and the spacing is more thought of as convenience. But the truth is that spacing is also part of better learning--when recall is difficult it's learned better (called "desirable difficulties"). I thought of that because Robert Bjork does that research with skills as well as facts. (See http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/01/everything-about-learni... for an overview.)
The field of intelligent tutoring systems is essentially how to break up a problem and estimate your knowledge on each piece (called a "knowledge component"), and then how to instruct based on the resulting student model. I got started by reading about Andes physics tutor: http://oli.cmu.edu/wp-oli/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/VanLehn... but there are many examples.
Most of the research doesn't actually incorporate spaced repetition. One exception is Philip Pavlik's work: http://optimallearning.org/
It's still a lot of effort to break things down into knowledge components and figure out the sequencing and instruction. That's why companies like Carnegie Learning and Knewton exist, and even those are only targeting elementary or intro level material for now.
But I'd say that if there's some are you'd like to work in that requires specific knowledge that fits well within SRS, why would you not? As opposed to trying to learn and recall anything that might possibly be useful, ever.
This means, every time I successfully recall the answer to a question, I increase the interval of when I will be challenged with it again by about 2.71828 times since I had seen it previously.
This is with a recall failure rate of about 5%, which I'm trying to maintain. (If it's nearing 0, then you're probably wasting time being challenged too frequently.)
This is on a data set used daily for 30 minutes, reviewing about 50 older questions and encountering around 3 new ones per day.
> At least with physical fitness there isn’t a precisely dismaying number indicating how far behind you are!
Many sports are precisely measurable and in such sports, the measurements determine who has won, to various resolutions. Shortest running time over a given distance, heaviest weight snatched, furthest distance jumped and so on.
Athletes in such sports can very accurately track their performance over time. As of yesterday I demonstrated that I can clean & jerk 25kg less than my lifetime record, for example.
FluxCards provides spaced repetition learning with easy to edit and create own cards. You can sneak the answer line by line, you can finger-paint and the stats are fast and meaningful.
It is free to use with 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 days intervals. Beyond that you need the premium version but your cards are yours, so if you consider it not worth the fee, you can export your cards to SD and use them in Anki.
And yes, spaced repetition rocks. I can only encourage any flash cards programmer to implement it, as all these apps that implement flash cards but no spaced repetition learning are just not worth your time.
I'm also building a language learning startup that uses SRS. If you're interested in trying the system out in beta, or being notified when it's ready for general consumption, email me at email@example.com and let me know which language you want to learn.
One interesting thing we've found early on, was that when we encouraged people to actually "take a break", not to repeat too much, but instead let your brain process and come back to it later, people didn't like it. They wanted the ability to keep training and training. This resonates well with what the article describe about students' cramming tendency. So some time you have to manipulate even a solid algorithm, to fit with reality.
Spaced repetition is pretty amazing. Adding records feels like you're entering them into your brain, provided you use it every day. I managed to go from knowing almost nothing to scoring 99% in a Japanese kanji exam once, entirely thanks to Anki.
My thesis is available here:
The online SRS I built is also available:
I always wanted to make my own SRS, one that had ease of use , stability and data integrity at its core rather than cutting edge features. This year I finally set aside time to make it: feel free to try it out and let me know what you think. It is very simple (there is only one deck), but multiple decks will be the next feature to be added.
On top of that platform is an implementation of a rather interesting way to learn Japanese reading which it would also be great to have feedback on:
One thing that I've wondered is whether it is a good idea to try to think up mnemonics for tricky words when using spaced repetition. It certainly seems effective in helping recall but I worry that I might train my brain to always rely on going via an indirect path to get to the information and that this will slow down my ability to understand real language.
Has anyone seen any research along these lines?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's not so useful in college now that I'm majoring in applied math, but occasionally I'll use it for a humanities class. (throwaway b/c I always use throwaways)
Thanks for all the references as always.
I think it's doing all right though. Here are some of the decks I'm most proud of:
- Using lilypond snippets and a midi-to-wav generator, I wrote a perl script that generates a deck for every (non-accidental) note on a guitar fretboard. It shows the fret position with a question mark, and then when you identify the note, it plays the pitch and shows the note on a treble clef. I'll probably expand it to include accidentals soon.
- Also using lilypond, I wrote a jazz theory deck for major chords. Questions like, "What chord quality and inversion is this?" where it plays a chord, and answer would be m7b5 (half-dim) 2nd inversion. My ear training has improved a ton. And, what is the key scale for bII7/iii in B major? (Plays the chord audio). Answer: B melodic minor or E lydian/mixolydian, playing and showing the scale on treble clef. And an effect like gwern described has happened. I haven't actually memorized the answer to every card in the deck (since the perl script generated about 2500 of them). Instead, I've gotten faster of doing the actual music theory processing in my head to calculate/recognize the right answer almost instantaneously. End result is that it has improved my speed in reading lead sheets. (It has not, however, improved my melodic improvisation abilities. :-) )
The rest of my decks are basically based off of Coursera courses. Unfortunately, I haven't finished any of them yet. I routinely run into the problem where partway through the course, the amount of time I need to spend keeping up with the new cards limits my time available to watch new videos and do new assignments, so I don't finish the course. I am now taking the Scala course again, and I'm hopeful that since I'm fully reviewed up through week 4, I might be able to power through and finish it with a deck that fully reflects the course.
This also means that I am improperly creating a separate deck for each subject matter, when Anki doesn't let you scramble them. I should be putting them all in one deck, but I kinda don't want to before a deck is "complete". I'm also a couple of chapters into "Learn You A Haskell", with the rest of the book on pause.
Finally, I can echo that practicing helps a lot. For instance with the Haskell deck, I got up to fully reviewed, and each card was still kind of hard. Then I spent a couple of hours playing with the first Project Euler problem. After that, the entire deck was much easier and faster. So, retaining familiarity still is somewhat different than learning the concepts. If I have a fully reviewed Anki deck from Odersky's Scala course (on coursera), it won't mean I know Scala. But if I go start a Scala project, the Anki knowledge will help me a ton, and then afterwards, the experience from hacking on the project will make the Anki cards much easier, maybe even to the point that I could delete a bunch of them.
BTW, that's feature I wish I had from the deck - some kind of advice for when it might be appropriate to delete a card. I worry that I'm doing the equivalent of writing pointless unit tests sometimes.
For the people reading this that do jazz, it's based off of Randy Halberstadt's concepts of planets and harmony. Scale choices differ from the classic guideline of being simply chord based. For instance, dmi7 does not necessarily imply a d dorian scale. If it's in the key of C at that point, then you'd instead play C major bebop.
Unit tests never go away, though. Eventually a card will get scheduled for years out, and it takes a trivial amount of time to review, so it shouldn't be a problem. I'd imagine.
The Coursera decks I would absolutely release but I need to finish a course first, and I need to make sure they don't have assignment answers in them I guess.
'cperciva noted this effect from his time at Oxford...
"When I tell North Americans about my time at Oxford University, one aspect of its undergraduate program inevitably surprises them: Final examinations. Rather than writing examinations at the end of each term, students in most subjects write a single set of examinations at the end of their final year, on which their entire degree performance is measured. (In recent years, some subjects have switched to annual examinations.) As terrifying as this might sound, the system has some merits: Whereas many students at institutions with termly examinations study the day before an exam and forget the material the day after the exam, attempting to 'cram' three years worth of material at once is largely an exercise in futility; as such, Oxford's examinations often provide a better measure of how much material a student has learned and retained. Given some of the conversations I've had with — and code I've seen from — people who have received computer science degrees from major universities and are actively working as software developers, I think that last part is very important: There's a lot of people out there who have forgotten some very basic — and very important — material" (http://www.daemonology.net/blog/2012-10-08-software-developm...).
You can obviously practice spaced repetition regardless of your school's exam structure, and Cal Newport specifies a method for doing this in "The Art of Stealth Studying: How To Earn a 4.0 With Only 1.0 Hours of Work" (http://calnewport.com/blog/2007/10/03/the-art-of-stealth-stu...).
However, most students are unaware of this method nor have the disciple to follow it on their own so to realize its benefits on a mass scale, we would need to revamp the education system around these principles.
And as 'qwern noted, sleep is a key factor in spaced repetition learning. Research shows sleep is when the brain prunes itself by separating signal from noise...
"Sleep researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health believe it is more evidence for their theory of 'synaptic homeostasis.' This is the idea that synapses grow stronger when we're awake as we learn and adapt to an ever-changing the environment, that sleep refreshes the brain by bringing synapses back to a lower level of strength. This is important because larger synapses consume a lot of energy, occupy more space and require more supplies, including the proteins examined in this study."
"Sleep — by allowing synaptic downscaling — saves energy, space and material, and clears away unnecessary 'noise' from the previous day, the researchers believe. The fresh brain is then ready to learn again in the morning" (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090402143455.ht...).
I'll propose an alternative to rote memorization for learning: critical thinking.
From the link:
> This is a translation of a popular scientific article about memory and learning written by J.Kowalski, Poland, for Enter in November 1994. Translator comments are placed in square brackets...
> Simulation experiments based on Wozniak's model of learning show that a student who stops repetitions after a 5-year-long work with SuperMemo is likely to forget 60% of the learned material in the first year after the cessation! [this figure has later been proven exaggerated]
Isn't that a rather dishonest description?
> I'll propose an alternative to rote memorization for learning: critical thinking.
Memorization fosters understanding: http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition#abstraction
This varies in different subjects of course. In computer science and business degrees you just don't have to be able to pull as many details out of your hat as in biology, medicine or law. The effort and work required to master a math-heavy homework assignment can be enough rote memorization.
I've come to think of rote memorization as actually the most natural way to learn in a time efficient manner. I have yet to witness this approach compromising my understanding in any way.
Sometimes in life the answer can't be reasoned about, you just have to buckle down and memorize it.
I use fluxcards that I wrote myself and have some 2600 facts that I'm learning.
The Spanish words work smoothly, cause I actually want to really not use them wrong in my daily life in Chile.
The friends and family birthdays work so so. Yeah, I admit, I don't care so much. I learn them as a favor to my friends that enjoy when I remember their birthday but I find birthdays kind of unimportant.
Then there is Farsi. I was in Iran and for my Iranian friends I learn some 35 words of Farsi. That is the worse. It makes no sense and my brain just won't accept these weird words to stick. Every time I want to use these words in a chat with my Iranian friends, I don't dare cause I just would mix things up and I don't get these words above the one month level in 2 years. If I would want to give up, I would have to delete these cards and acknowledge that I will not learn this stuff. At least not now, but I do it for them, so why not repeat one of these cards per day for them? Costs 3s and eventually I get my * brain to not forget these "important facts".
Critical thinking would only help me to admit that I will not learn this or that now. If I took the conscious decision to learn stuff anyway I know nothing better than spaced repetition.
I fell into this trap in math classes all the time. My exams would be covered in work where I would do something like reinventing the chain rule from the definition of the derivative. The definition of the derivative is elegant and obvious in its workings, and therefore easy to remember based on critical thinking. The chain rule commonly useful, but it's a special case, and the end result is opaque. So I wouldn't remember it, and I'd just figure it out from scratch on test day.
As it turned out, that got me plenty far. But my grades would have been better if, having understood how to derive it, I had cached it in long term memory. I would have made fewer mistakes, had less work to check, and more time to check it.
These days the same thing happens when I'm working on a math problem for practical purposes. I don't have a lot of these formulas committed to memory, so instead of spending time on actually solving the problem I have, I have to spend time rebuilding math from scratch.
It's the same basic concept as caching and memoization in programming. It would be a mistake to write every function as a giant look up table to handle each parameter combination. But if your code keeps calling the same expensive pure function with the same parameters, you can greatly speed it up by caching the result.
What is important is not that you can identify and name methods of reasoning. It is important that you can apply the appropriate reasoning method to problems in your life.