Monday, March 23, 2009

Importance of Knowing the Facts

The other day I wrote about how important critical thinking was compared to rote memorization. Then I realized how I use a lot if information that I had memorized from my school days.

As we walked along the Mississippi River in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, I noticed how high the water was. Then this nice man stopped to talk to us and mentioned that it was very higher than usual and showed us the road which was now under water. He said that people usually drove their cars along that road when the water is low. When I asked him what was causing the high water, he said that the snow was melting from North and South Dakota which flows into the Mississippi River. Now, of course I knew where these states were located because of the years that I had to memorize the 50 states. Without knowing this, I would not fully understand the impact of the snow melting and that the water was heading to the Gulf of Mexico.

This nice man also mentioned that the Eads Bridge was very famous. It was built in 1874 and predated the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The date made an impression on me because I knew it was built soon after the Civil War. I also knew where the Brooklyn Bridge was and what it looked like because I grew up in New York and we traveled across the bridge many times. Again, I remember having to memorize dates when I was in school.

So, now I realize that it is important that we have students memorize certain facts that they may use later in life. I think it is very important to know the continents, oceans, states, important dates in history, multiplication and division facts, and basic fractions. What other things do you think are important to memorize and why do you think students should know this information?

5 comments:

Abimbola said...

I don't have a prescriptive way for learning or teaching students. I leave that to the experts...

I know though that making history sound interesting will engage more students...

By history I mean historical anecdote, it not only connects the generation, it raises better awareness...

One of the best IET lectures I've attended recently was the Centenary Kelvin Lecture.

Until that lecture I had no idea that Lord Kelvin had been a fascinating person as well as a brilliant Physicist and Engineer...

I learnt more about Kelvin because the speaker for the Centenary Kelvin Lecture, Professor Sir John Pendry thought the meeting was starting at 7pm instead of 6:30pm...:-)

The IET chairman, Chris Earnshaw who was tasked with presenting the speaker had to entertain the packed Lecture theatre while we waited for Pendry to gather his thoughts and get over his embarrassment at being late...

Earnshaw chose to tell us about Lord Kelvin's fascinating life (we already knew aspects of Kelvin's work)

I'm convinced that this is one way of introducing science and mathematics to any group of students - it captures and engages the mind...

Lona said...

You did this well! As an adult I've come to realize just how much knowing the dates and locations--the specifics of anything--can improve our understanding of life. I try to inform my students about how much the fine bits of information add so much to life. Thank you.

Margaret said...

Everything you said and....(keep in mind I teach in a Christian school) 10 Commandments, books of the Bible, many Bible verses key to the Christian faith, Dolch sight words, the TouchPoints for 1-9 (aids those who, like me, couldn't wrap our brains around facts memorization, but could count forward & backward), QUERTY keys, weird "special sounds" such as tion, ought, ough, ph, etc., alphabet, safety drill routines...and many more. These are important because they are a solid FOUNDATION upon which you build higher-level critical thinking skills and creative ways to use the basics. I believe the Classical education model starts with rote/drill and gradually requires the students to play and question a bit with it as they hit middle childhood, and increase the difficulty of subject matter in the teens until finally, they exit HS hopefully close to what we would assume of a top-tier academic university grad today. Assuming "normal" function.. these skills are necessary to survive in modern, post elementary classrooms. It's very hard to keep from getting emotionally upset and shutting down while you are trying to do Algebra 1 when you can't divide worth a squat because you never really got the hang of borrowing, let alone multiplying accurately. And answering that Science question on the State Test about what habitats the Northwestern something-or-others thrive in? Uhhhhhh... it's a wild guess if you don't know east & west and didn't have a vague picture in your head of the outline of the USA. The facts are boring, true, but you can't do the fun stuff independently without 'em. You'd have to rely upon others to demonstrate it for you.

loonyhiker said...

Lona: Don't you wish you knew then what you know now? I wonder if I would have taken learning more seriously?

loonyhiker said...

Margaret:Thank you so much for adding to the list. I enjoyed reading your comments. I don't think I really had thought about how much I use information that I memorized as a student.