Spaced repetition using flash cards

Pierce J. Howard’s book “The Owner’s Manual for the Brain” starts with the following ideas:

Learning is memory; memory, learning. Learning entails two processes: acquiring and retaining. Psychologists and educators would call these processes short-term memory and long-term memory. Whether we are learning a telephone number, a chess strategy, a role in a play, a dance step, or how to recover from a computer mishap, in order to say that we have learned something we must be able to demonstrate that not only have we acquired the knowledge or skill, i.e., that we understand it and can use it properly, but that we also have retained that understanding so that we may continue to use it over time.

Another key point to keep in mind with respect to how we use the word memory is that it comes in different modes: memory for words (e.g., a poem), for numbers (e.g., telephone numbers or the times tables), for images (e.g., faces or artworks), for sounds (e.g., specific engine noises or melodies), for movements (e.g., dance steps), for nomenclatures and organizational schemes (e.g., an organization chart or the periodic table of elements), for interpersonal idiosyncrasies (e.g., what motivates different people), and for personal preferences (e.g., things I do and don’t like). These eight areas are called talents, or multiple intelligences.”

The two best strategies that anyone can apply to aid in the learning process are spaced repetition and flash cards. They imply dividing the material into smaller parts, then writing down definitions, formulas, vocabulary, dates etc. and repeatedly learning and testing over a longer period of time, with breaks in between. Another tip is creating categories, based on how well you know the content. For example, there can be 3 groups for when to review the cards: every day, once per week, or before test. This process can be done by pen and paper (see video below), but there are also apps like Anki, Tinycards, Brainscape or Quizlet. Happy learning!

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