1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Inability to memorize anything-starting to haunt me

  1. Oct 24, 2012 #1
    Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    To get right to the point, I am currently getting a C in the dreaded calc 2. It is because I simply cannot drill anything into my head. The center of mass formulas, the arc length formula, the surface area formula, error bound formulas, most of the common trig integrals. I could not recall most of them on my midterm (which I failed miserably, <50%) despite having no problem using them in homework and acing my open note quizzes. My midterm consisted of a few flawlessly completed differentials, a correctly solved surface area problem (lucked out that it was a sphere and I didn't need to use the formula), and a bunch of 0 credit embarassments. These questions are loved by the average student because they are easy points for them.

    I have always barely scraped by in classes that were heavy on memorization--poli sci, econ, psych. That's what drew me to math and physics, specifically to a "learn by doing" school (cal poly). Math has been very low on memorization until now. I breeze through physics because all my professors allow equation sheets on exams.

    I guess my question is whether I would be able to handle math courses beyond calc 2 with my poor memorization skills. Is it only going to get worse? (I'm a materials engineering major). I feel I have a strong grasp of the main topics of this course--integration techniques, differential equations. I am often the person people come to for help, even by my peers that have higher grades than I do.

    Also, if there is anybody out there like me, what did you do to deal with it? I've tried writing things down repeatedly, flash cards, reciting them over and over, but nothing works. I can do 100 practice problems and forget the formula I used within minutes. I understand that everyone remembers things differently, but in my many years of schooling I have not been able to find a method that works.

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2012 #2

    symbolipoint

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    I'll try to help, but this is not much.

    You are doing better than I did the first time in Calculus 2. Could you learn to derive a few of the formulas, and from those, learn to derive other formulas? Could you draw a picture or a graph to help remake a formula?

    One of my troubles was with remembering formulas for trigonometric substitutions for some integrals. I found that I could draw right triangles and label the parts and from them, find what substitution expressions to make so I could proceed with the integral. No real memorization; just understanding right triangle and pythagorean theorem.
     
  4. Oct 24, 2012 #3

    chiro

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Hey Listiba and welcome to the forums.

    One recommendation I have (and this applies regardless of what you are learning) is to put the results into your own language.

    By your own language I mean a way that is the best way for you to retain information. If you are trying to remember things in a way that is described in a foreign language that is un-natural to you with regards to retaining things then see if you have other ways to describe the exact same thing that are a lot easier to recall.

    In terms of the specifics, that is something you will have to work on.

    The way you remember it need not be mathematical at all: as long as you have a way to relate it back to the mathematical language then it doesn't matter how you remember it or what is actually remembered.

    Try and think of the things that you remember easily: lots of people remember particular kinds of things that resonate with them more than other things.

    There are lots of different techniques that are suggested by cognitive and memory gurus like mind maps and so on, but the thing that underlies all these techniques regardless of the method and the author, is that they are looking at different ways to say the same thing in a way that easily resonates with the individual and is easy to relate to and remember.
     
  5. Oct 24, 2012 #4
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Thanks for the responses.
    I do end up trying to derive most of the common trig integrals, but time simply does not allow for it in most cases. Most of the time I can handle the "easy" functions (cos/sin/tan)--the "triangle" takes me about a minute--but when a hyperbolic inverse csc comes around, I end up playing with the problem for 15 minutes and get nowhere because I simply didn't recognize what it was. It's extremely frustrating for me, because I KNOW how to solve these problems but end up blowing it because I failed to recognize something that you are expected to see instantly.

    Thanks for the welcome. I've lurked this forum for many years but never got around to registering.

    My problem is retaining concrete things like formulas and facts, whereas I have no trouble remembering things like processes and methods of solving problems. I remember when I was taking Spanish classes, I was quite good at grammar and conjugations but was often unable to form a sentence because I could not recall the vocabulary words.

    I have done quite a bit of research regarding memory techniques but they all seem to be strange and perhaps a bit corny to me, so I've never given it a shot. I feel quite discouraged by the thought that I have to go through some fancy method to remember something simple that the average person can read a few times over the course of 30 seconds and have it etched into their mind.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012
  6. Oct 24, 2012 #5

    symbolipoint

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Maybe you just need LONGER time to memorize facts? Maybe you need to learn to recite them in both a spoken and a written form. You could begin with a small list, and gradually build the size of this list.
     
  7. Oct 25, 2012 #6

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    do you know your name? your phone number? the words to your favorite song? if so, then you can certainly memorize. what makes it possible? hmmm? hint: repetitition
     
  8. Oct 25, 2012 #7

    MarneMath

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    As Mathwonk stated it is a lot of repetition. I have a memory that most would consider poor. I can use a formula in one problem, forget it within 5 minutes. I know this a problem that I face, but I also learn that if I use something enough times, it'll eventual stick with me for period. So when I study for a class that requires specific formula, I do two things.

    1)I do a lot of problems with the formula, until eventually I retain it. I do this immediately when I learn it, and then I redo all the problems prior to a test that requires it to help enforce it.
    2)I make flashcards. I give my wife the flashcards and have her call me randomly throughout the day and ask me to state a formula. She obviously has no idea what any of it means, so on the otherside of the card, I write out in words what the symbols mean. Doing this also helps me memorize it. Something about translating the symbol into english back into math helps.

    Hopefully this will help you out some.
     
  9. Oct 25, 2012 #8
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    I don't know about VERY advanced mathematics but just obsessively repeating seems to work mostly. I remember I learned this around trig where I found all the identies etc to be so annoying and I tried to avoid them. Eventually you just have to get used to using them to the point that you understand what they do (physically/graphically) and how they are connected. It also helps to know about their meaning and how they relate to the themes (eg limits -> continuity in calculus) -- although this wont be is easy if you have time constraints.
     
  10. Oct 25, 2012 #9
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Some formulas are easy to derive from others. Others are a bit more difficult and would be better off memorizing them.

    In the case of arclength, think of the simple distance formula.

    ds^2 = dx^2 + dy^2

    Then "solve for s" and you'll have your arclength formula. i.e. divide both sides by dt^2 or dx^2, algebra, integrate.
     
  11. Oct 27, 2012 #10
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Go to the doctor and tell him about this and make it clear that you want a solution as well. There can be several causes, one being anemia (and I'm making no diagnosis but I'm just giving a completely random example here). Your doctor may refer you to another clinician, at the very least you might be prescribed supplements that will improve your memory recall.

    Not every thing is genetic, there is a nonzero fraction of it that is environmental. While I can't tell you how much of it is genetic, you should be aware that you can do something about the environmental factors.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  12. Oct 27, 2012 #11
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    If you don't have a pathological problem...if you are ok in general,then you could boost your memory if you just:
    1.get regular sleep,8 hours sleep every single night,no exceptions!Rewarding in the long run,guaranteed.
    2. Sleep standard hours.Flexible sleeping time is bad( tonight at 9 tommorow at 12).
    3. Coffee keeps you awake,but eat a little bit of basil every day uncooked!No joke!
    4.REPETITION is the cure to a weak memory.repeat repeat.Did i mention to repeat? :P

    maybe you could see some improvement after a while,who knows....
     
  13. Oct 27, 2012 #12
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Why is flexible sleeping time bad?
     
  14. Oct 28, 2012 #13
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    ask a doctor how differenent sleeping hours decreasing your mental strenght :)
     
  15. Oct 28, 2012 #14
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Well I was looking to get a source from you but I googled it myself so its alright. And doctors aren't always right either.

    Anyways here is one article: http://ccs.sagepub.com/content/4/3/304.abstract

    It states that sleeping at the same time everyday decreases your morning latency in the morning.

    This other article states that you may fall asleep with irregular sleeping hours. http://sleepforscience.com/stuff/co...567db2c113cf0e8/pdf/wolfson_carskadon1998.pdf

    However, it doesn't conclude anything about sleep overall. The subjects they are studying (adolescents) have to wake up early for school. What about people in college that don't start classes till afternoon or even in the evening? I myself never loose sleep due to irregular sleeping hours.

    I still don't see how it decreases your "mental strength" though? Perhaps it can indirectly if you lose sleep due to it, but that is about all. That is, unless you can provide a couple of sources.
     
  16. Dec 19, 2012 #15
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Small update.

    Just took my final. Couldn't recall most of the "memorization" things (formulas, common trig integrals/derivatives) despite knowing all of them by heart yesterday. Probably failed.

    Maximum frustration! I'm really hoping further courses don't require this much memorization.

    There's nothing wrong with my mental strength! In fact I am quite competent at doing.... pretty much anything except storing and regurgitating information.
     
  17. Dec 19, 2012 #16

    ZombieFeynman

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    In my opinion this is a big problem. Being able to store and recall facts is crucial. Some people disagree with this; they think you can just look things up when you need them. To some extent this is true. But when you're talking to another scientist you're going to need to have a large working vocabulary and KNOW FACTS. When you're working on a research problem and you're doing a literature review it's going to kill you if you don't just KNOW things when they are referenced in passing. If you're in the lab, it's going to be murderous if you can't remember what equipment is called what or which chemical is called which or the order of a specific protocol. You won't be able to program if you have to look up syntax and simple algorithms all the time. Solving things analytically is much swifter if you don't have to constantly look up vector identities, trig identities, derivatives of things, Fourier transforms of things... Etc, etc, etc.

    I'm not saying to memorize everything, but the more you have in your brain, the better. This is an issue and you need to fix it.

    Flash cards, make lists, write things down, constantly review, etc.
     
  18. Dec 19, 2012 #17
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Perhaps try something like this?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  19. Dec 19, 2012 #18
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    One thing that I find very helpful is to learn to use formulas/facts you know to help you figure out other formulas/facts that you don't quite know.

    Here's an example. All through high school, I had trouble remembering the formula relating velocity, position, and time. Before a test, I would memorize v = x/t, but then I would usually forget it later and have to memorize it again. I knew that it was either v = x/t or v = xt or v = t/x, but I could never remember which. When I finally got it solidified in my memory was when I realized, hey, when I talk about a car's velocity I use kilometres per hour: distance per time. If the units of velocity are distance over time, then v has to be x/t for the units to make sense. In fact, I find this sort of thing (dimensional analysis) to be very useful for remembering formulas in general.

    Now that I'm out of high school and in engineering, I have a quite a lot of formulas at my grasp, even though I may not have them entirely memorized. I like to make connections between the things I learn so that the things I remember for sure (usually formulas I use a lot and concepts/principles) can help me to figure out the things I only somewhat remember. It doesn't let me avoid memorization entirely, but it helps me to be more efficient in what I memorize. I also find that this sort of memorization technique keeps things in my brain for a much longer period of time, because there's redundancy in the things I know.
     
  20. Dec 19, 2012 #19
    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    Learning math and physics by memorization is a bad way to learn. You do not simply memorize a Spanish dictionary to learn Spanish. You must use it, it should be the professors job to teach you it if they are doing a bad job they should re-evaluate their teaching practices.

    If they feel memorization is the only way to learn it, they are mistaken. People learn different ways, what may work for some simply will not work for others, there job as a paid teacher is to expose you to the material in a way you can best learn and your job as a student is to learn.

    If this is not being done, they should be reported to the director at your school. There job is not mathematician/physics its "professor of mathematics/physics" so they should start teaching. This is the main difference between a good and bad educator.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
  21. Dec 19, 2012 #20

    ZombieFeynman

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Inability to memorize anything--starting to haunt me

    I agree that memorization ion it's own is useless.

    But, having to memorize facts, formulae, and such and learning physics are not mutually exclusive!

    There's no reason why a student should not be expected to remember things while ALSO being expected to think critically, solve problems, and gain a deep intuitive understanding!
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Inability to memorize anything-starting to haunt me
  1. Actuarial memorization (Replies: 4)

  2. Memorizing formulas (Replies: 13)

Loading...