Comments on Memorization in a Google World

27 09 2009

I just wanted to relate a story regarding your commentary. Last night we were sitting about the dinner table and my sister in law, who was a grade 3 teacher at one time told a story about how one of her grandson’s had to get a calculator as part of his grade 6 school supplies.

His mother refused to buy this equipment based on the fact that he has yet to learn his times tables. In spite of her son’s teacher’s objections, she feels this will be an incentive to learn this “critical” knowledge. She has even provided him with some sort of learning activity to help with his memorization.

The debate raged between my sister in law and her husband. Her point was that the child would need to be able to calculate in practical applications like figuring out his change at a store. Her husband disagreed on the basis that there are so many machines that assist us in these small tasks.

It might be interesting to note that they are both have very different values as learners. She became a teacher and loves details and protocol. He has been a lifelong athlete, favouring sports over academics. She retired after her first child was born over 40 years ago. He left college to pursue a career in business and became a millionaire.

So is the need for memorization there? Or are we just biased as educators (read literate people)? As a secondary thought, what would our own lives be like if we had never been asked to memorize data such a times tables or who discovered America? Would people think we were ignorant and illiterate?

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