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Other Does it matter if I forget the formulas?

  1. Oct 27, 2017 #41
    Perhaps. But I doubt you are done with polemics seeking to validate your unwillingness to master the tasks put before you.

    I had great success in school, because (at least for the purposes and duration of a course), I didn't question whether the professor's way of teaching and assessing learning was the best. I treated that question as "above my pay grade" and simply worked as hard as I could to master the material set before me - according to how the prof was teaching and assessing. After the semester, I often reflected about what I liked and didn't like. But my view was shortsighted and more about my comfort than my learning, because I didn't know what academic and professional challenges lay ahead. But my professors did. Much later I realized the wisdom in the approach of my professors, because I realized how meeting their requirements had developed in me the abilities to succeed in graduate school and the working world. My goal when I became a teacher was at least to do for my students what my professors had done for me - impart learning with true value.

    One valuable way to look at college coursework is that you will take (approximately) 40 classes and have 40 different bosses. Just as in the working world you will have to please a boss, your job in a college course is to please each professor as the boss for your work in their class. Stop thinking about whether what they ask of you is right or reasonable. Figure out how to please them and do it.

    If you can learn to please the 40 bosses you'll have in college, you'll be well prepared to figure out and please the bosses you'll have in the working world.
  2. Oct 28, 2017 #42

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't see "you didn't learn the material" is "putting down". I would go a step further and say that telling a student that they have mastered the material when they have not interferes with their learning process, both short term and long term. Short term because they move on before they have mastered the material, and long term since knowledge is cumulative and they are starting on a shaky foundation.
  3. Oct 29, 2017 #43


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    I don't see V50's comment as a putdown, but, rather, a realistic appraisal of this situation.

    This is post #43 in what should have been a very short thread, something like the following:
    Q: Does it matter if I forget the formulas?
    A: It depends on which formulas you're talking about. Can you be more specific?
    Q: Does it matter if I forget the formula for the slope of a line after two weeks?
    A: Yes, very much. That's a formula that you should memorize.
    ---- End of thread​
    Instead, we have an OP who is under the impression that having a sheet with formulas on it is the same as knowing those formulas. I'm all for promoting students' self-confidence, but that confidence has to be based on actual achievements, or it's meaningless; e.g., giving everyone on a team an award for "pariticipation.".
  4. Oct 29, 2017 #44


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    There are different levels of understanding, and they require different levels of mastery.

    It's easy enough to teach students a recipe for finding the slope of a line: identify two points, plug the numbers into the right place in the formula, and calculate the result. Students can do this without any understanding of what the numbers mean and what the slope represents. This would rank as the lowest level of understanding. This kind of knowledge is the most fragile since if you forget the recipe or formula, you're screwed.

    The next level up of understanding requires that students know and can explain what the numbers represent. They can explain why a horizontal line has 0 slope; they know why a line of slope 2 is steeper than a line of slope 1; they understand what the sign of the slope represents; and so on. If you have at least this level of understanding of slope, you don't really need to memorize a formula anymore. Knowing how to calculate the slope becomes "obvious" from one's understanding of the concept.

    In all likelihood, you are expected to reach at least this second level of understanding of slope in Algebra I. It may have simply been an unfortunate choice of example on your part, but what people in the thread are saying is slope is such a basic concept that if you truly can't remember how to calculate the slope of a line, you very likely didn't reach the level of understanding of the concept that you needed to.

    That said, learning isn't a linear process. The first time you learn about a concept, it's not unusual to still have some gaps in your knowledge. You may forget certain details and have to relearn them. It's often during this relearning process that you achieve higher levels of understanding. You're not starting from ground zero, and some aspects you may have only memorized earlier now start to make sense the second time around so you no longer have to rely only on memorization.

    The trick is to achieve an acceptable level of understanding on the first go-around. You don't want it to be so superficial that you can't remember the material a week or two later, but it's typically not a disaster if you don't achieve 100% mastery either. You can fill in the holes as you go.
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