To Understand Or to Memorize?

To Understand Or to Memorize?

To reduce the need of memorizing a bunch of seemingly arbitrary facts, you should understand how something can work. Memory is a fundamental tool for human learning. It is encouraged for children to develop their skills to memorize even during their toddler years. However, true learning is not only memorized and expresses their ideas with memorization; they should demonstrate the ability to refine their ideas through communication with others.

If you memorize something, you are bound to forget, but if you truly understand something, you will take it to the grave and remember forever. Understanding is alike memory in that you can rehearse the information. However with understanding, you know the information in a way that allows us to use it in different ways. The simplest example is where you have memorized a shape and can see it in your mind, and that’s it. With understanding that shape, you are able to rotate it in your mind and see it from different angles. This is really what separates you from understanding and memorization. You can apply ideas to real life situations or case studies if you truly understand.

Memorization is difficult to apply ideas in real-life situations or case studies. Ideas are just as essential to the learning process as are facts. Ideas are important because they represent how different people observe the world.

And that’s where understanding comes in. If you manage to understand a topic, you can still reconstruct it if you are missing some details. However with memorizing, if you lose some details, you lose everything. If you strive to understand, you can solve problems even when numbers or components are changed.

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Memorization is not a pure educational philosophy. Memorization should be applied in such a way as to exclude or trump the teaching of understanding. Both working together are key components to building knowledge. The bottom-line, as I see it, is that memorized knowledge can or likely should be part of your foundation or basic. But, it will only get you to not so far. It’s the ability to really understand something and how it works that will help you solve issues that just aren’t solvable with memorized facts alone.