Memorizing is a Lost Art, But Should It Be?

Memorizing poetry, passages or facts is a relic of another era. Rarely are kids forced to learn by rote Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, a soliloquy from Shakespeare or multiplication tables. Some educators may even praise this move saying forced memorization does not encourage learning much less understanding.

To hammer home this point, have your kids come home from school and recited the Periodic Table of Elements? Have they quoted the poem Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which you may recall from your own schooldays? “Listen, my children, and you shall hear, Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year…”

Technology Versus Memorization

With technology at our fingertips it is simple to find information we are missing. Smartphones, laptops and pads help us retrieve data that once rested inside our heads. Dialing up a friend is easy, just click on their phone contact. You don’t need to race through the numbers in your head to recall a correct phone number.

Yet, learning by rote memory, the process of repeating information until it is firmly lodged in one’s long term memory, is not something that should fall by the wayside. If you want to keep your brain challenged, then memorization has a place in schools and in our daily lives. Think about it. The critics will say that memorizing facts is generally a waste of time. They insist it is less important than developing skills like critical thinking. However, HOW CAN YOU THINK CRITICALLY IF YOU DON’T HAVE INFORMATION STORED IN YOUR MEMORY?

When children memorize nursery rhymes or poetry they are learning about language patterns and increasing their vocabulary. When adults and especially older adults work their brains by memorizing they are stimulating the neural plasticity pathways in their brains. According to, neuroplasticity refers to the lifelong capacity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stimulation of learning and new experiences. Here are more reasons why practicing memorization is good for your brain.

Memorization trains your brain to remember

While memorizing lines of poetry may be boring it’s a necessary task if you want to train your brain to remember things. Practicing memorization – and utilizing different techniques – makes your brain more receptive to remembering.

Memorizing challenges your brain

Working out at a gym builds muscles and increases your physical prowess and aerobic capacity. The brain also reacts positively to challenge. When given consistent and intense workouts, like memorization tasks, your brain stays fit and strong.

Rote Learning Improves Neuroplasticity

Irish researchers found that through extended exercises in rote learning, learners can actually recall more information overall. Rote learning benefits the hippocampal foundation, a key structure in the brain for episodic and spatial memory in humans. In their group of participants aged 55-70, these researches noted that repeated activation of memory structures promotes neuronal plasticity in the aging brain.

Knowing Frees Up Brain Power

Students who already “know” equations, functions, definitions and other memorized facts save brain power. The saved brain power can be used to learn other things. Once foundational concepts and information  are grasped, students can move onto bigger and better things, rather than spending time looking up words or doing simple math on a calculator.

Memory Exercises Help Students Focus

People who spend time memorizing anything at all learn to focus. Educators have found when students memorize from an early age they often have more capacity to focus on educational tasks in high school and college.

Memory Skills are Essential to Learning New Concepts

Weber State University student researcher Paula Fiet has delved into a working memory research project, discovering that underdeveloped short-term memory may be to blame for some students’ problems with mastering concepts in math and reading. Fiet explains, “you need working memory to learn,” or to hold enough information in your mind to comprehend what you’re learning. Fiet’s research has shown that “children with poor working memories don’t get enough information in their minds at one time to make sense of what is coming in.” Students who complete exercises aimed at building short-term memory have seen improvement in their working memory and capacity to learn.

Memory Training May Stave Off Memory Decline

Memory-forming can become a healthy lifelong habit. Researchers from the National Institute on Health and Aging have found that adults who went through short bursts of memory training were better able to maintain higher cognitive functioning and everyday skills, even five years after going through the training. Practicing memorization allowed the elderly adults to delay typical cognitive decline by seven to 14 years. Students who start practicing memory training now can stay sharp in years to come.

To sum up this article, keep your brain sharp through memorization because the more you know the more you can learn!

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