# Is it normal to forget most previously learned material?

turbo
Gold Member
Every semester, whenever I begin to learn a new subject, that is, a more advanced class of the previous subject (i.e. algebra -> pre-calc -> calc -> diff eq, etc.) I forget a lot of the stuff I learned in the previous class when I'm learning the new content and constantly have to review all the time because I keep forgetting the basics and it's interfering with the more advanced classes...is this normal or should I hammer the bases more into my head so I will never forget them and not have to look back every time I need a formula or theorem and whatnot?
Learning math is cumulative, so it is not helpful to blank out previous materials. Sometimes, it seems that students want to learn to pass the "next test" and I don't think that is a good approach. Whenever you take more advanced courses, it would be a good idea to review previous concepts because they all build on one another. It's time-consuming, but it's probably more beneficial to you in the long run. Just my opinion, and I have been out of college for 40+ years, but the cumulative basics for math studies probably haven't changed much since then. Good luck.

sums up my situation entirely

1) What if you dont get into medical school?
2) Don't you want to learn for your own sake?

mathwonk
Homework Helper
2020 Award
this reminds me of a brief conversation i had years ago with a business student who thought his degree guaranteed a job. next time i saw him was when i went into wendy's for a burger.

member 392791
Yes I would like to learn, but there's no way I'm going to master physics, chemistry, and calculus simultaneously in such a short time span. How am I supposed to understand Newton's work in 3 weeks, when it took him probably 10+ years to formulate his laws, and he was one of the smartest people who ever lived? It turns out grades don't reflect knowledge. There is simply too much damn information being thrown at me in too short of a time span, and unless I want to spend 8 hours studying everyday I won't be able to understand it. I wanna have a life too and enjoy free time instead of always having my nose in a book. I'm just not damn smart enough, so I gotta figure out another way, and it seems like I did.

I have a friend who is such a try hard, she will work like no other to learn the concepts and gets A's in all her coursework. I on the other hand follow the work smarter, not harder principle. While she at the end of the day understands the concepts at much deeper level than me, the outcome for both of us is the A on some transcript in some file in some cabinet somewhere in the world.

She will be very successful one day (electrical engineer), and if I keep up what I'm doing and it keeps working, I will be a lawyer or doctor one day. We will be fine financially, only difference is I put in 1/10th the effort and still get 2-3 times the pay. My way is more efficient.

To Mathwonk,
The difference between me and that business student is that the business student wasn't doing a real major. Also, you previously said you teach everything like it was the student's first time, sounds like you would expect this kind of behavior. If I become some job that demands high wage I won't have wasted my parents money, and as of right now I've managed to deceive my teachers into thinking I am bright and that my scores reflect my knowledge. They love me!

Not to mention I swear teachers intentionally withold information from students that would be critical for them to answer problems, just so they can struggle more. My way around this is wikipedia, turns out wikipedia > professor for explaining essentially anything.

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law school or medical school, I already counted out doing science because I know I don't understand the concepts well enough to pursue scientific endeavors...also, the pay sucks.

with my mentality, you'll probably see me on the presidential election ballot in about 15-20 years. scary thought huh?
I'm not so convinced. With your mentality I envision you on the unemployment line and voting for the president who supports food stamps.

Yes I would like to learn, but there's no way I'm going to master physics, chemistry, and calculus simultaneously in such a short time span. How am I supposed to understand Newton's work in 3 weeks, when it took him probably 10+ years to formulate his laws, and he was one of the smartest people who ever lived? It turns out grades don't reflect knowledge. There is simply too much damn information being thrown at me in too short of a time span, and unless I want to spend 8 hours studying everyday I won't be able to understand it. I wanna have a life too and enjoy free time instead of always having my nose in a book. I'm just not damn smart enough, so I gotta figure out another way, and it seems like I did.

I have a friend who is such a try hard, she will work like no other to learn the concepts and gets A's in all her coursework. I on the other hand follow the work smarter, not harder principle. While she at the end of the day understands the concepts at much deeper level than me, the outcome for both of us is the A on some transcript in some file in some cabinet somewhere in the world.

She will be very successful one day (electrical engineer), and if I keep up what I'm doing and it keeps working, I will be a lawyer or doctor one day. We will be fine financially, only difference is I put in 1/10th the effort and still get 2-3 times the pay. My way is more efficient.

To Mathwonk,
The difference between me and that business student is that the business student wasn't doing a real major

Not to mention I swear teachers intentionally withold information from students that would be critical for them to answer problems, just so they can struggle more. My way around this is wikipedia, turns out wikipedia > professor for explaining essentially anything.
Your elitism is frightening. And your philosophy of learning and knowledge is grossly misplaced. It doesn't take a genius to study what Newton helped to create. And we don't need 10 years to learn the concept of a derivative. That is a faulty generalization.

I on the other hand follow the work smarter, not harder principle.
I believe you mean that you work less while she works smarter? She goes for deep understanding and you go for cheating. I wonder who works smarter? And I also wonder who will function better with their degree.

member 392791
My method is not cheating in any way, shape, or form. And once again I said I'm not smart enough to understand all the material in a deep enough manner in a short time frame and be able to live with sanity

My method is not cheating in any way, shape, or form. And once again I said I'm not smart enough to understand all the material in a deep enough manner in a short time frame and be able to live with sanity
Actually, I know from experience, that there is a good chance what you are doing is cheating. Schools do not allow students to obtain copies of old exams without the instructors approval.

member 392791
Actually, I know from experience, that there is a good chance what you are doing is cheating. Schools do not allow students to obtain copies of old exams without the instructors approval.
The teacher's give the student's back the tests. These are not tests that the teacher takes back and you don't get to see ever again. I just know how to make friends with older people than me and get them to give me all their old tests and labs. I'm already set up with tests and labs for chemistry II and tommorow will be set up with tests for linear algebra/DE

Nabeshin
How am I supposed to understand Newton's work in 3 weeks, when it took him probably 10+ years to formulate his laws, and he was one of the smartest people who ever lived?
We've also had 300+ years of experience teaching this material and reformulating it in a way which is easy to understand and master. The same goes for basically anything in the undergraduate physics curriculum.

I blame the education system being so rote. Maybe if they tested concepts instead of memorizing cookbook steps to answering anything my ploys wouldn't work. I am the first to admit I have no idea what Green's theorem is, but I did it on my final today and computed it correctly, all I did was follow the steps as done on previous quizzes. Easiest A in my life

oh yeah, and stop putting so much pressure on me to get all A's and maybe I wouldn't cheat the system. Professional school's emphasize A's a lot more than understanding the concept, so I'm just doing what I gotta do to get a secure high paying job.

Don't blame me.

And i'll be doing the same exact thing next semester in differential equations
I don't understand, for things requiring more logical thinking and conceptualization, you say that the education system is stupid because it requires you to learn something in a day that took others years. And for things that require knowledge of a various pool of things, you say that they expect too much rote memorization. Maybe school just isn't for you. Maybe your not doing what you love and, having a bad time as a consequence--so you blame everything for it.

Every semester, whenever I begin to learn a new subject, that is, a more advanced class of the previous subject (i.e. algebra -> pre-calc -> calc -> diff eq, etc.) I forget a lot of the stuff I learned in the previous class when I'm learning the new content and constantly have to review all the time because I keep forgetting the basics and it's interfering with the more advanced classes...is this normal or should I hammer the bases more into my head so I will never forget them and not have to look back every time I need a formula or theorem and whatnot?
Hmm I usually remember at least the most important things, but some things I forget and I have to give a quick review. I think you should pay more attention to the bases (for example in multivariate calculus: chain rule, stokes theorem, gauss theorem; in linear algebra: vector space, basis of a vector space, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, homogeneous system and determinant).

My method is not cheating in any way, shape, or form. And once again I said I'm not smart enough to understand all the material in a deep enough manner in a short time frame and be able to live with sanity
Your not smart enough is different from your not dedicated enough. The first is a victim statement and a very passive philosophy-- I loathe it. The latter blames oneself for not trying hard enough. Which philosophy do you choose to be under? One thing for sure, if you choose to fall under the philosophy that you aren't smart enough, then you will never reach your potential.

I thought algebra was hard and didn't make any sense two years ago. Now I'm studying differential equations in my spare time. I could have went two routes: either I wasn't smart enough, or I wasn't dedicated enough.

You choose.

member 392791
Yeah you have a point I hate what I'm doing, but I'm getting the marks and I just want a high paying job. If I followed what I really liked I would be making $30,000 a year, and that is just not reasonable. I'm also not dedicated enough, I've repeatedly said I refuse to study 8 hours a day to meet the expectations. Maybe for some people it takes less time, but for me there is no way. The teacher's give the student's back the tests. These are not tests that the teacher takes back and you don't get to see ever again. I just know how to make friends with older people than me and get them to give me all their old tests and labs. I'm already set up with tests and labs for chemistry II and tommorow will be set up with tests for linear algebra/DE I figured the teacher gives them back. Its still considered cheating. Personally, I don't care, but it is cheating at many, many institutions. Woopy, I took a look at some of your other posts. You're clearly having a hard time picking a major and further you state that you never really had an interest in medicine, you're bored in your math/physics classes and with the finer details of biology. You prefer the macroscopic to the microscopic, animal behavior to molecules and you're already talking about burnout. Why, then, become a doctor? The money? I don't see any other reason. Think about this, though -- how do you intend to get through Chem II, OChem I & II and Biology with that mindset? How will you not burn out if you're taking subjects you hate... biochem, microbiology, immunology, genetics, etc? And that's just your undergrad career. You'd still need to get into medical school (good luck acing the MCAT if you've forgotten everything a week after each final) and THROUGH medical school. That means more classes about subjects you hate and can't be bothered to remember. Even if you do make it into/through med school and into an internship and residency.. how will you hide your flagrant ignorance when they tell you to do something and you don't have a friend there to give you the answers? Like you said you've deceived your teachers into thinking you're smart, you've tricked them into thinking you know what you're talking about -- but more than that you've deceived yourself. You've convinced yourself that you'll get some dream job where people will pay you 2-3 times as much as they pay everyone else.. for what? Think about it. What are they paying you for? They're paying you for knowledge, a skill-set, abilities that other people don't have. If being or becoming a doctor was easy, everyone would do it.. and a lot of people try. Compare the number of hopeful, save-the-world and buy-the-lexus "premeds" to the number of people entering good med schools with 4.0 science GPAs (rather than 4.0 English) to the number leaving med school with equally impressive resumes. Most wash out. While you're at it, read up on some of the recent news stories surrounding the realities of law school.. the fact that people are entering with dreams and leaving with debt. They're being told that lawyer = money, they're NOT being told that this is only true for the best students at the best schools who know the best people. Read up on the classes required for EE and you'll see why your friend studies so hard to get those As. Do the research, understand that things get harder and if you're not willing to put in the hours (as you've clearly stated you want to give up after 10 minutes of studying) you will not make it. Doing what you dream and making$30,000 is better than failing out of med school with a few hundred thousand in debt. Alternatively you could get your **** together, realize that money doesn't come easy and put in the time to study.

member 392791
you make it sound like I'm struggling. I have nearly a 4.0 GPA in a science major, I just absolutely hate it. The jobs are in science. Also, I know I'm not the only one doing this. You expect me to believe the entire country of India and China have an intense interest in medicine or engineering? There is absolutely no way.

If I loved the subject, I could study all those hours with no problem. She loves science, I don't. Just because I don't love a subject that earns a lot of money doesn't mean I'm not going to live poor the rest of my life. Good snide remark to the english majors that truly love whatever it is their doing, you should be encouraging me to network even more

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I don't mean to imply that you're struggling, only that in time you will with your attitude. In a previous thread (March 15) you spoke of burnout, of switching subjects after 10 minutes and of being in Physics I/Chem I, meaning you have another semester of Physics, another semester of general Chemistry and 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry ahead of you.. in addition to the rest of the Biology classes needed for a degree. Immunology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, A&P, etc.

I don't believe you'll make it through them without quitting with your currentmindset and your developing study habits. Interestingly enough this ties in with your comment on foreigners in science programs; their interest isn't necessary, but they possess the work ethic required to master the material. You seem to think it's not necessary, and it'll bite you in the *** in time. Which is essentially what everyone else has been saying.

Intellect alone won't get you very far, you need determination and work ethic as well; hell, with enough of the latter two you don't even need to be all that smart. Interest is preferable but.. well, as you pointed out it's not required. The problem is that your willingness to work (study) seems to be faltering almost as quickly as your interest is. Unless that changes, you'll be changing your major again. Imho.

Edit: My remark about English majors was in reference to the aspiring doctors that major in something easy to keep their GPA high after they realize that it's not as easy as they thought to maintain a 4.0 through science courses and labs designed to weed out those who aren't willing to put in the requisite study time. Courses that, by the sound of it, you haven't started yet. Calc III is great, but you still have lots of Chem/Bio left.

member 392791
I already know I'm a ticking timebomb, but I feel like I'm in a hopeless situation between being miserable in my studies or being miserable being poor. Which misery would you choose? one is temporary and the other lasts a lifetime

Hate biology? Just wait until medical school level human anatomy, cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry.

I'm not so convinced. With your mentality I envision you on the unemployment line and voting for the president who supports food stamps.
Can someone please explain to me what is so wrong with foodstamps?! I've always been under the impression that they help save lives.

edit: This has nothing to do with the thread. perhaps a pm would be more appropriate.

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or being miserable being poor.
Money is not the be-all, end-all of your life. If that's your only motivation for being in college then you're most likely going to quit and end up working at a low rate job paying off your debt. If you hate academia so much, but want to be rich then why not become a businessman? You seem to be doing it the hard way as far as making a lot of money is concerned.

EDIT: I'm sure a lot of people will attest to this on this forum, but being in college full-time is like having a full-time job.

Can someone please explain to me what is so wrong with foodstamps?! I've always been under the impression that they help save lives.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. You misinterpreted. What I was saying is that he isn't going to be the next president but will either be unemployed or on welfare.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. You misinterpreted. What I was saying is that he isn't going to be the next president but will either be unemployed or on welfare.
And then in the next post went on to call him an elitist. Chill out, man

Money is not the be-all, end-all of your life. If that's your only motivation for being in college then you're most likely going to quit and end up working at a low rate job paying off your debt. If you hate academia so much, but want to be rich then why not become a businessman? You seem to be doing it the hard way as far as making a lot of money is concerned.

EDIT: I'm sure a lot of people will attest to this on this forum, but being in college full-time is like having a full-time job.
I agree with this. You seem to have a knack for networking already, why not major in something along those lines?

I already know I'm a ticking timebomb, but I feel like I'm in a hopeless situation between being miserable in my studies or being miserable being poor. Which misery would you choose? one is temporary and the other lasts a lifetime
That's sort of our point. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your argument(s), but from where I'm sitting it seems as if you're... well, perhaps not arguing in favor of poor study habits in general but at the very least defending your study habits specifically. I don't mean to suggest that you have to switch majors, only that you change those habits lest you be forced to switch when your disinterest catches up with you in the next few semesters/years of chemistry and biology.

Some part of me would love to be majoring in languages or philosophy, but I chose the more difficult of my many and varied interests... physics. Not the most profitable, if that were the case I'd have gone with engineering. I did this because while I believe myself capable of succeeding in more difficult upper-graduate classes (time will tell if this is the case), I don't think this would be the case if I chose a field I had zero interest in. See, I recognized that it wouldn't simply be 4 years of pain.. but a lifetime. If I hated <Field X> in university I'd likely hate it as a career as well.

This is the dilemma you're facing now. Perhaps you could consider other fields that you find more interesting; fields that, while not being as lucrative as medicine, offer a reasonable salary after graduation. Mathematics, economics, computer science, physics, engineering (so many to choose from!), etc. There is more to success than medical and law school. Springs and planes are just elementary ways to teach physical concepts, concepts which are applied in upper level courses that teach you to design aircraft or improve fuels. You would know better than we would what you might enjoy doing in your later years.. after that it's simply a matter of putting your head down and doing what needs to be done.