It’s All About You
Build On What You Know
We learn the best when what we are trying to learn fits easily into our head. If we have a background in math, logic seems to make more sense. We are always associating new information with what we already know.
Piaget calls this process assimilation. Chemistry isn’t hard if we’ve taken a lot of chemistry classes. Similarly, baking concepts are easier for chemistry majors when recipes are related to previous lab procedures. We build on what we know.
Sometimes we encounter new information that doesn’t relate to anything we know. That’s when we have to search deeper in your knowledge base to find links that will work.
If you’re a runner, relate statistics to running times. If you’re an artist, draw the relationships between concepts. If you’re a film maker, pretend you’re making a documentary on the subject.
Use what you already know to your advantage. No one else has you data base of knowledge. So use your hobbies, interests and experiences to find things you already know that are similar to things you are trying to learn.
In your brain, anything you learn will need to fit in with what you already know. So why not give the process a nudge. When a new fact comes in, associate it with something you already know.
If you have had experience in training dogs or horses, our discussion of backward chaining was probably easy for you to follow. It’s part of your knowledge base. Find something in your knowledge base similar to whatever you are currently learning.
If you’re an artist, draw or paint a conceptual (or actual) summary of the information. If you’re a mechanic or engineer, use what you know about models, structural relationships and design. Whatever your strength or hobby, find a connection you can use.
Facts and numbers that relate to your hobby will be easier to remember. If you are a runner, the speed of light (186k miles per hour) is similar to a long distance run of three kilometers (1.86 miles). If you travel at the speed of light for a year, you will have traveled 5.9 trillion miles. Find a running reference that matches 5.9 or 59 or 590. Make associations between what you are trying to learn and what you already know.
Use your body. Some people learn which months have 31 days by using their fist. Knuckles are 31 days, dips are 30 (or less). Start with your little knuckle (either side): that’s January, the dip is February, the ring knuckle is March, the dip is April, the middle knuckle is May, the dip is June and the index knuckle is July. Skip the thumbs and continue on. This works as a memory aid because you always have your hand with you.
It is easy to teach kids about the brain by having them make two fists and crossing their wrists. The right arm is run by the fist (cerebral hemisphere) on the left side. The left side is run by the fist on the right side. Relating concepts to your body makes them easier to remember.
Make your hand into a fist (this is a lot of fists. I must be very angry). The thumb is the temporal lobe, the knuckles represent the parietal lobe, the frontal lobe is the fingers, and the back of the hand is the occipital lobe. Relating facts to your body makes them easier to remember.
Applying It To Real Life
Google a topic you know nothing about. Find a way to match something you want to remember to something in your hobbies, job experience, talents and skills. Incorporate what you want to learn into what you already know.