tricks and memorization and automaticity

Posted on March 19, 2019


I work w/ lots and lots of people who haven’t learned stuff like times tables.

It’s a whole lot like decoding in reading.   If you’re not teaching decoding, then … if decoding is a cognitive load, take the load away.   Find another delivery system.

However!   It’s worth learning to decode!  It’s worth learning to read.

Likewise with math.   If I’m teaching something that needs you to know that 2^3 is 8, not 6, to proceed further… then I should give you a reference for that.

However!   I think that if you’re going to understand that x^5 / x^3   is x^2 … then that understanding has to be close to automatic, and therefore, it’s worth spending time — dedicated unto the task — making that task automatic.   If it takes you longer, you deserve the time and the practice with manipulatives and the practice and review and yes, … wait for it …. drill.   “Repetition, repetition and drill, drill drill” — for that finite part of the lesson of the day.

It took years for me to believe that but … data don’t lie.   I was bored… my students weren’t… and yes, we spent a lot of time being creative and exploring ideas. (I also crunched the test scores on the students, being the most Excel savvy soul in the department, and the ones wiht the “boring” teachers always made bigger gains.  Always.   That includes the brilliant creative ones. )

UDL guidelines highlight gradual release of scaffolds.   That gradual release needs to be done with practice and reinforcement for many of my folks.   They deserve it 🙂

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