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Do schools just test your memory?

As a middle school student I have rather unsatisfactory grades but the way I see it, I just have a bad memory.

Think about it, don't tests technically just assess what you remember and not what you actually know? I could remember that 2 + 2 = 4 but that doesn't mean I know why. I guess this doesn't count for those who actually understand the process.

Please share your opinions with me, I am here to learn.

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    Nov 13 2012: ... It depends on what you commit to memory. You are correct that getting the correct answer doesn't mean you know what was being tested (i.e. if you memorize that equation), but if you solve [ X + Y = ? ] enough times you start to memorize a pattern to the solution. Such patterns are crucial to learning, since it simplifies big problems into bits that are easier to understand. Unfortunately, the only way schools can test if you've learned that is by making you solve the same problem over and over with different numbers. Similarly, other subjects do the same thing with rules for sentence structures, chemical reactions, physical interactions, musical progression, and even sports.

    "Learn the rules, so you know how to break them properly." - The Dahlia Lama
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    Nov 12 2012: Ali, schools do test memory and understanding . We do need to commit to memory certain basics to promote understanding of the concepts. For example, how did you learn to speak and write memorizing the alphabets and words..unconsciously most of the time. The grammar you may have acquired by understanding. The same principle applies to all the subjects, including learning to play an instrument.
  • Nov 19 2012: Ali,

    I hope that you don't mind me putting in my two cents after you've already thanked everybody else for their opinions.

    I remember very well when my time in junior high and high school. Although those times in my life are becoming more noticeably a part of my past (I graduated high school in 2007), the feelings I had about education at that time are still very fresh to me. There was one time I found myself in almost exactly your situation. One day in grade 10 math class, I stopped my teacher while we reviewed the Pythagorean Theorem (a sq.+b sq. = c sq., I don't know if you've covered that yet), when I stopped her in the middle of her explanations to ask her, "Why are we learning this? What are we ever going to use this for later on in life?" She had no great answer or insight for me. After pressing her for something meaningful she eventually said with no small amount of annoyance in her voice, "It's in the curriculum so you have to learn it!" It was from that experience that I had lost all curiosity with regard to math, and later the sciences, for several years.

    It's exactly as most of the people who commented on your thread has said; memorizing the base skills are essential to understanding concepts; however, I think you're at about the point in your education where you're starting to see the structures and ideologies that are behind education as a whole. My best advice to you would be to not lose your curiosity. Math is wonderful. It's a language that speaks to us about the beauty of all things natural and created. While I study words and meaning, math speaks to me about how the world moves, and how it maintains movement in a sort of chaotic beauty. So do your memorizing practices. Take the tests that don't mark your understanding. In the meantime, try and understand things on your own terms. Think about everything you're taught, turn them over in your mind, come up with your own opinions, and then talk about them. All of a sudden school will become fun.
    • Nov 22 2012: Thanks for the advice! My cousin told me the same thing, and its been really helpful! Thanks for the input, I really appreciate it!

      Have a good day!
  • Nov 13 2012: This is a message for everyone who has commented on this conversation.

    Thank you for your opinions. I do not want to use memory as an excuse but now I realize that it would be good for me to try harder in my studies. At least now I can use all of your advice as motivation to do better in school. Your comments have enlightened me and I greatly appreciate it. Have a nice day!
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    Nov 13 2012: Actually there has to be a creteria for assessing learners. If it is not what it is, then it would be something else and someone else would be saying it ought to be something else.
    If every learner is not given the same assessment, then someone else would be crying 'discrimination'.
    There is far more to learn from school than what is taught, and much more to school than passing tests and having good grades.
    Just like talent is common and it takes a couple of other things to make people exceptional, so is the school system.
    Anyone that really thirsts/hungers for education would go farther than what the system offers or does, would not cling to excuses, and would focus on the pursuit of education.
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    Nov 13 2012: If they do not encourage and explain what originality is then yes. You can learn by rote but you are only learning symbols.
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    Nov 13 2012: Hi Ali,

    What we "know" is no more than the collection of spacial and causal maps retained in our brains.
    These are a kind of memory.
    These maps define the basis of perception - which has another word: "belief".
    we, as humans, have the capacity to share our perceptions with each other.
    There are 2 types of perceptional constructs:
    1. Intrinsic.
    2. Extrinsic.
    Intrinsic perception is based on direct obervation of our internal states and external objects/events.
    Intrinsic perceptions always remain conditional on continuous observation - they can change and are adaptive.
    Extrinsic perceptions are based on artificial association. They are formed as a consenses to accept the association. For instance, I can propose that a pebble associates to a sheep in my flock. The pebble is not the sheep, but if a new lamb is born, I can add a pebble to my collection, if one dies or is eaten, I can remove one. If someone asks me how many sheep are in my flock, instead of going out to count them every time I'm asked, I can simply count the pebbles in my pocket. If the person who asked also accepts my pebble/sheep association, then it has mutual communicative value.
    In this example, the extrinsic association of "pebble=sheep" relies on nothing more than the association. It is rendered static - i.e. it cannot ever change without losing its communication value.

    Modern schools tend to rely exclusively on static extrinsic perceptions. They rarely admit to the underlying falicy - a pebble is not a sheep.

    So when you say 2 + 2 = 4, you are training the extrinsic that 2 represents one thing in the company of another same-thing (2). If the expression (2+2=4) is taught in the absensce of the intrinsic perception, it collapses into a meaningless artifact that is useful only if you are a calculator .. and not even insects would let themselves be reduced to that.
    However, the enlighened teacher might explode the extrinsic perceptions into intrinsic framework. E.g. counting pebbles.
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    Nov 13 2012: Perhaps you have addressed something that you will recognize later in your education. At elementary and middle school we are concerned with rote memory as the basis of the learning process. here is defination of rote memory:

    Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it. Some of the alternatives to rote learning include meaningful learning, associative learning, and active learning.

    Nothing is faster than rote learning if a formula must be learned quickly for an imminent test and rote methods can be helpful for committing an understood fact to memory. However, students who learn with understanding are able to transfer their knowledge to tasks requiring problem-solving with greater success than those who learn only by rote. And that is called critical thinking ... you will get this later in your education.

    Critical thinking is hard to lock down but here are some explainations:

    "the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action

    "purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based

    So, Ali, here is my answer. If I was your teacher I would test you to see if you are real smart and just bored or maybe just do not get it. In education we crawl, walk, and run ... right now you are walking ... hang in there and you will soon be running. Smart people are lucky ... the harder they work the luckier they become ... LOL

    So get to work my friend.

    All the best. Bob.
  • Nov 12 2012: I don't know you personally, so I can't be sure. But if I have to go by all the other cases I have seen up close, I'd say you get bad grades because you don't work hard enough. Bad memory is an excuse -- don't take it personally, I have used the excuse too. But that's what it is.

    You are right, in that understanding the concept behind various things is important, critically important in some fields of science, but
    1. it is harder to test for that.
    2. it is harder to get consistent results across all students taking the test.

    It is nice that you are putting an effort into understanding the concepts. There is no need to cut down on that. But work harder now! Once you get older, it will get more difficult to change your habits.

    Think of it this way: schools are not testing your memory. They are testing your effort.
  • Nov 11 2012: "Do schools just test your memory?"

    Take a calculus class and you will find out that memory only gets you so far, even in high school.