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Is anyone experienced with using mnemonics for rote-memorizing?

  1. Apr 2, 2009 #1
    Is buying a book for this necessary? How much investment in time does it take to become efficient at using memory techniques? I just need the ideal technique for rote-memorizing straight up facts like rules, formulas, trig ratios, periodic table of element (I don't need to memorize that though...).

    I am already using Anki to enhance my learning, but I think I could further and accelerate my progress and efficiency if I start incorporating memory techniques.

    I think I only need one, and I remember reading up on here about someone mentioning the peg system. Is the peg system all I need to know for rote-memorizing rules?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2009 #2
    Simple .. do lots of questions!

    You can waste your time learning about different useless "learning techniques" or can just do some more questions.
     
  4. Apr 2, 2009 #3
    There are a bazillion sites on the Internet with all the rules and advice you'd need. A book is a take-it-with-you convenience, so it depends on what you need.

    There are also a bazillion techniques, many or most just rehashes of others. So you have to feel out what works best for you.

    Googling "mnemonics" is the first step to finding and exploring sites about it all. Though I am becoming suspicious that most of those people write more how-tos on mnemonics than actively apply their own techniques. Still, I haven't seen too many articles that were wrong in their advice and descriptions.
     
  5. Apr 2, 2009 #4
    two things work well for me. one is sound. the other is ribaldry.
     
  6. Apr 3, 2009 #5
    One strategy that works for me is to attack myself with questions about whatever I'm trying to memorize. For example, say I want to memorize the string
    aeed90u21Qmd092nli@pI2nas9d2Ks9232i2Js0e(Oo

    After you have given a couple minutes of trying to memorize it by just staring at it and trying to dump the info into your brain, just start asking myself a ton of questions about it, and try to recall from memory the answer (try it from your mind first, and look at the key if you can't answer a certain question)
    How many characters are there?
    What characters are used?
    How many A's are there?
    How many B's are there?
    ...
    Name the position numbers of each A.
    Name the position numbers of each B.
    ...
    Recite the string backwards
    Recite the even numbered characters
    Recite the prime numbered characters
    ...
    If a=1, b=2, etc, what is the sum of the string
    What is the product of the string in mod 3
    ...
    try to view the image of it in your mind
    move the parts around to make a rectangle of letters
    rotate the rectangle then recite the string like you are reading a page
    ...
    Just start making up random questions to ask your brain about it

    After you have done a ton of mental gymnastics like this, building up to harder and harder questions, it will be easily and strongly memorized. You will feel like you "understand" the string. This takes about 15-30 minutes.

    You can do similar things with equations, mentally reciting term by term, moving terms around, asking questions like "what is in the denominator of the 2nd term", dividing by things, expanding everything, factoring everything, considering what happens in the limit as a variable goes to infinity, substituting in some numbers for every variable and computing it, substituting in for all but 2 variables and then graphing it, etc etc. Just play around with it. Try to do this mentally at first, but if you cant then doing it on paper or on a computer is almost as good.
     
  7. Apr 3, 2009 #6
    I used to have a great one for memorizing the planets. It was a little dirty, but very very funny. Unfortunately, it's useless now, what with the dirtiest part gone.
     
  8. Apr 3, 2009 #7

    Moonbear

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    Since I teach med students, I hear lots of mnemonics as they try to memorize all the new terms they are learning. I get a good laugh over it, since to me, it's easier just to remember the terms. My favorite example was when they were learning the five main branches of the facial nerve, which are temporal, zygomatic, buccal, mandibular, and cervical. One of the instructors in the course shared with them the mnemonic, "Two Zebras Bit My Cheek" to remember the names of the branches. I could not stop laughing the day I was in the lab and a student yelled generally to the room, "Whose cheek did the zebras bite? Mine or yours?" I responded by asking if they had a mnemonic for the mnemonic, and suggested that remembering the mandibular branch innervates the facial muscles over the mandible might be a better help for identifying and naming it.

    So, yeah, I'm not a big fan of mnemonics. The one situation they are useful is if you remember all the terms, but need to remember the order and nothing else helps you with that (like ROY G. BIV for the colors of the rainbow).
     
  9. Apr 3, 2009 #8

    lisab

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    King Phylum brought the Class to Order so the Family could Generate the Species.

    The only one I really use anymore. I use it...maybe once every couple of years.
     
  10. Apr 3, 2009 #9

    Moonbear

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    I learned it as King Phillip Could Only Find Green Socks. Yours actually would be more helpful to remember the words the mnemonic represents.

    The only other one I remember is Every Good Boy Does Fine, and FACE for the notes on the lines and spaces, respectively, of a G clef.
     
  11. Apr 3, 2009 #10
    ugh, that's dry, and why i'm a fan of ribaldry. the only resistor color code mnemonic i can post here is Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts, But Vodka Goes Well. and some people would take issue with that.
     
  12. Apr 3, 2009 #11

    Moonbear

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    Dry works for me. I learned that somewhere around the 8th grade, same for King Phillip Can Only Find Green Socks, and Every Good Boy Does Fine (I think I learned that one earlier, in elementary school), and still remember them. There were ribald versions I was told by classmates, but I can't recall a single one of them. They added more complexity for the sake of humor, but lacked meter and simplicity, so have been long since forgotten.
     
  13. Apr 3, 2009 #12
    I sure am. I was able to recall an important license plate more than two years after an incident, to the disbelief of an investigator. Once I explained how I did it, she was mightily impressed and said she would look into it for herself. And the plate info apparently helped her out with whatever she needed.

    And I can still call it forth.

    The example you gave with the students is amateurish, and as such really shouldn't be used to judge the techniques so generally.
     
  14. Apr 3, 2009 #13

    Moonbear

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    That's a different kind of situation, where there are no terms or understanding involved, just memorizing a series of unrelated letters and numbers. In that case, if something helps you remember them, go for it. I do that with license plates too, because the letters and numbers alone hold no meaning to me, so I have to create a meaning to recall them.
     
  15. Apr 3, 2009 #14
    hmm, i just realized i can still remember the order of flats in scales (BEADGCF) but not the sharps. i think it's just the reverse, tho. been a long time. don't remember the bass clef at all, as i didn't play it, but the treble clef didn't need any tricks, it just all came naturally.
     
  16. Apr 3, 2009 #15
    My example, then, was insufficient for my position.

    Mnemonics was never intended for or expected to give an understanding of concepts. And it's certainly not everyone's bowl of chili. But it is an option for some as an aid for learning. It demands practice and honing to be of practical use. And where so many try with so little devotion, the reputation it has garnered is understandable.

    Nonetheless, once it's sharpened to a point of mastery, it is of great benefit. Students under the pressure of exams will typically abandon it, and I'm sad to see them lose confidence in it. A few, however, don't give up on it.

    Early in learning the techniques, it looks impressive to many as a kid recites a random list of objects forward and backward, or from any point in the middle. But then the "reality" sets in as he tries to incorporate it into studies. From there, they resemble (and mostly function) more as parlor tricks, and as such the impressiveness dwindles. It's great for some flash card replacement, foreign words or phrases, a few math rules and geography facts. Sure. But watch them go into France and suffer as they try to understand what a driver is asking. From this example and the like, it's easy to dismiss mnemonics.

    Where I bottled up the license plate in my mind, I could've just written it down and stored it in a safe. For most information, I save on my PC. None of this means mnemonics should be dismissed. It's a discipline and experience.
     
  17. Apr 3, 2009 #16

    Moonbear

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    That's actually the funny thing for me. When I play music, I just match positions of notes to positions of fingers. I need a mnemonic to remember the letters, and as I play a note, would struggle to tell you the name of the note, but that has no impact on my ability to play the notes. I was really surprised recently...I bought myself an inexpensive new guitar to relearn to play after almost 25 years of not playing, and after about a day of relearning the fingering of the notes, was able to go right back to sight reading again. I didn't expect to relearn it so quickly after so long of not playing music. Regaining the callouses and dexterity to play chords again has been more of a challenge, especially when I only infrequently have time to practice.
     
  18. Apr 3, 2009 #17

    Moonbear

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    But that is precisely my point. It is pointless to just memorize terms if you do not understand the concepts, and if you understand the concepts, you won't need to memorize the terms. Mnemonic have little place in learning. They are most useful in situations where learning is not important, just the recall of picky details irrelevant to concepts.
     
  19. Apr 3, 2009 #18
    Is it not true that concepts must sometimes be memorized before they can be understood?
     
  20. Apr 3, 2009 #19

    Moonbear

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    No, they require understanding or else you are not learning the concept, just words.
     
  21. Apr 3, 2009 #20

    berkeman

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    Fun and interesting thread. I'd like to offer another perspective about why mnemonics can be useful.

    My regular day job is EE, but on the side I'm an EMT. There are a number of mnemonics that we use in learning EMS procedures, protocols, and so forth. In addition to being useful on tests (kind of the theme of this thread), they are extremely useful in the field in stressful situations dealing with patient care.

    Without mnemonics, it would be much more difficult, IMO, to provide directed, efficient care to patients in the field. You don't want to be wasting brain cycles trying to be sure that you have covered all the bases of your differential diagnosis and care provided, and transport priority decisions, and that's really hard to ensure unless you have condensed, memorized checklists to use in the heat of the moment.

    Some of the mnemonics that I use regularly on EMT shifts are:

    Level of Consciousness -- A&O / AVPU
    Life Threats Assessment -- ABC
    Medical History (Hx) -- SAMPLE
    Pain Assessment -- OPQRSTI
    Eyes -- PERRL
    Trauma Exam -- DCAPBTLS
    Extremity Perfusion -- CSM
    Meds -- MDDRPT (I changed the order of the traditional mnemonic to help me remember it)
    Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) -- Eyes (4), Verbal (5), Motor (6) (hand motions help to memorize this)
    Newborns -- APGAR
    Patient Care Report (PCR) -- CHART

    And in EMS, you put these and other mnemonics into a set of ordered flowcharts, based on what kind of emergency you are dealing with. So I will run through a different set of checks/mnemonics for a bad trauma patient, compared to a difficult-to-figure-out medical patient.

    I know this is a bit different from the intent of the OP, but it's an illustration of why mnemonics can be very useful in some situations. And yes, I do use a couple mnemonics in my EE work, but mostly the resistor color code that was mentioned earlier in the thread.
     
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